Ohio Supreme Court Rules Workers Comp Does Not Cover Mental Health


Workers Comp Can Go To Mental Health Only When Related to Physical Injury

The Ohio Supreme Court decided on June 5th that workers comp could only cover mental health problems if they were related to a physical injury that occurred on the job.

In a 5-2 decision, the Supreme Court sided with the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation against former truck driver Shaun Armstrong, who worked out of Cincinnati.

Originally, Armstrong filed a workers comp claim for post-traumatic stress disorder related to a vehicle accident that occurred in 2009 on I-70 in Clark County. When a driver collided with Armstrong’s company dump truck, the driver was killed. The agency initially approved Armstrong’ claim for workers comp related to physical injuries suffered as a result of the crash. However, his claim for mental injuries was denied. The Workers Comp Board argued that PTSD was unrelated.

In the decision this week, Justice Judith French cited state law related to workers comp, saying that benefits cannot be paid unless they are directly connected to a physical injury.

“Armstrong undisputedly suffered compensable physical injuries as a result of the accident, and his PTSD undisputedly arose contemporaneously as a result of the accident,” French wrote. However, she said the record “contains contradictory evidence of whether Armstrong’s physical injuries were a contributing cause of his PTSD.”

Armstrong’s doctor testified on his behalf, stating that his post-traumatic stress disorder was directly related to the accident he suffered in 2009. However, his former employers continued to deny the link, and the court found the company’s expert witness “more credible.”

Justice Paul E. Pfeifer wrote the dissenting argument. If an employee is horribly injured in an accident, can he receive compensation only for being depressed over the state of his body but not for psychological injuries due to being haunted by the trauma of the original event?” He added that Armstrong deserved compensation as he paid his “pound of flesh.”

What qualifies as a work injury?

There are obvious work injuries and not-so obvious work injuries.

  • Physical injury: an accident such as a fall, chemical burn, cut.

  • Repetitive injury: an injury acquired by repeating the same acts over and over through work. This could be accumulative hearing loss, debilitating back pain, carpel tunnel, neck pain. It is recommended to report a repetitive injury as soon as you need to seek medical attention for it.

  • Disease: an occupational disease is one that is acquired because of your job such as lung diseases (ex. Asbestosis) from work environments and hazardous work-related materials, or disease contracted because your work in a hospital.

  • Mental issues: Mental issues from extreme or unusual work conditions or from an ongoing work injury.

Anyone can file a workers comp claim for a work-related injury on their own. The South Carolina Worker’s Comp Commission is supposed to oversee conflicts that arise between the injured employee and the employer’s insurance company.

However, even with a mediator, an injured employee is challenged to act on his own behalf against a business entity. Insurance companies have lawyers, lots of fine print and look for reasons not to pay. Workers’ compensation is their business. The company’s employees are experts. An injured employee is in a weakened and stressed state. Plus, the employee must be evaluated by a doctor hired by the insurance company; this evaluation is used to determine approval, treatment and/or settlement of the employee’s worker’s comp claim.

The Strom Law Firm Can Help with South Carolina Workers Comp Claims

The workers comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800