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Seeking Workers’ Compensation Coverage for Depression

Work-related depression is a problem that is hiding in plain sight. Whether resulting from the stress of the job, loneliness, or alienation, depression is an authentic and serious problem for working people. Evidence that employers are aware of this problem can be seen in the rise of employer-provided “help lines” that provide employees with no-cost, anonymous counseling services to address depression and other issues. When an employee suffers from depression that is linked to work, the employer’s workers’ compensation program may offer a source of financial assistance for treatment and recovery. Despite the well-understood link between the stresses of work and clinical depression, the employee who makes a workers’ compensation claim likely will need help making an effective case for coverage. Workers’ compensation programs often are designed to address relatively easily understood workplace injuries, like broken bones and strained ligaments. Mental health issues pose special challenges for insurers, who will look for ways to avoid financial responsibility for an employee’s treatment. The most likely argument that an insurer will make to deny coverage is that the illness was not work related. To be covered by workers’ compensation a disease must have arisen out of or in the course of employment. If the disease can be traced to a cause that is not work-related, coverage will not apply. A conventional injury, like carpal tunnel from a non-ergonomic desk layout, tends to have a clear causal link to the employee’s job. The claimant must be ready to show that depression was caused by the job. Proving the link between depression and work can involve several sources of evidence. An important one will be the employee’s mental health professional, such as a psychiatrist or counselor. An expert’s evaluation of the underlying sources of depression can be vitally important in cases where causes beyond work can have played a secondary role. Other sources of evidence might include other employees as well as confirmation from family and friends who have observed the ways that the employee’s work have affected his or her mood. Depression can result from ongoing stresses, but it can also be the consequence of a specific event. Here the case for workers’ compensation can be clearer. A worker who has seen a number of long-time colleagues laid off may experience specific emotional responses to those events. A worker who has suffered a physical injury at work may experience depression caused by medication or simply by a loss of mobility or career prospects. A workers’ compensation attorney works with clients to improve claims outcomes. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has helped injured workers get the coverage they need to get back to full health after suffering an injury on the job. For a free attorney consultation, contact us at 702-388-4476 or through our contact page.