Workers’ Comp: Does Mental Anguish Qualify?

Not all workplace injuries are physical in nature. Sometimes in the aftermath of an incident there are severe mental consequences as well. If you’ve suffered from mental anguish due to an accident or unsafe situation at your place of employment, you may be wondering if workers’ comp covers this kind of injury. You are not alone.

A recent question from one of our readers addressed this very issue:

Question:“Does mental anguish count for workers’ compensation? For example, if I had a nervous breakdown, am I entitled to receive payments?”

            Answer: Yes, in some states.

A Classic Example of Mental Anguish at Work: PTSD

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, is a potentially debilitating condition that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic incident.

Here are a few examples of traumatic situations that can trigger people to develop mental anguish from PTSD:

  • Natural disasters
  • Serious injury accidents
  • Terrorist incidents
  • Sudden death of a loved one
  • Violent personal assault (i.e., armed robbery, fight with a coworker)
  • Other life-threatening event (i.e., long-term power outage, mass shooting, stuck inside a broken elevator, etc.)

Which States Pay Workers’ Comp Benefits to First Responders with PTSD?

Nine states now accept claims for PTSD from first-responders. These are:

In addition to this list, Utah passed legislation establishing a working group to study the compensability of mental stress claims from first responders. Today, 28 states offer limited workers’ compensation coverage for psychological injuries in some situations. However, workers’ compensation laws in another 13 states offer no mental anguish benefits at all.

That said, more states may soon pass laws specifically addressing this issue in the near future. Therefore, it is wise to research this issue in your particular state. In recent years, 26 states debated passing laws specifically designed to address workers’ compensation coverage just for mental health-related issues. The trend in workers’ comp legislation right now is to move toward more coverage for injuries solely affecting employees’ mental health. You may indeed qualify for benefits for mental health injuries that happen at work.

Not Just for First Responders

While most workers’ compensation laws regarding mental injury exclusively mention first responders such as police, EMT workers, and firefighters, some states do extend this kind of benefit to workers in different fields. For example, Colorado expanded workers’ comp benefits to PTSD sufferers in 2018. In this state, any employee who experiences traumatic events as part of their usual job duties can qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

California has a law that specifically addresses workers’ compensation cases for mental issues. It says that if a doctor determines your job is at least 50% responsible for a mental disorder, then it’s a “psychiatric injury.” If you need medical treatment or cannot complete your usual job duties, then you may qualify for workers’ comp benefits. But you must work for your current employer for at least six months before filing a mental anguish workers’ comp claim.

There is some legal precedent for non-first responders to receive coverage in Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut and Tennessee as well. Because these laws change constantly, it is wise to work with a workers’ comp attorney in your state to help navigate your potential claim.

Coverage for Non-Physical Injuries Like Mental Anguish Varies a Lot by State

Each state has slightly different language in its laws regarding mental anguish and workers’ compensation coverage.

To help illustrate how different states address this problem, we’ll list a few examples. To get workers’ compensation benefits in Arkansas, you must prove a work-related physical injury caused your psychological issues. In Florida, however, it’s much harder to prove your case. That’s because, stress, fright, or excitement leading to your mental issue is not a valid workplace injury. The lone exception is if you’re a first responder whose mental injury “occurred as a manifestation of a compensable injury” and you can provide clear and convincing evidence that supports your claim.

Finally, you can only get Illinois workers’ compensation benefits for purely psychological injuries in two specific cases:

  • You suffer a sudden, severe emotional shock traced to one specific incident.
  • Your mental health issue appears directly after a series of work-related events.

As you can see, the extreme variation in workers’ comp legal language by state can be very confusing. Expert help from a lawyer is the easiest way to learn if you may have a valid case.

Some States Deny Claims Arising from Disciplinary Action or Dismissal

Several states have laws that specifically bar mental anguish workers’ comp claims that stem from termination or disciplinary action. New Mexico, for example, covers some mental on-the-job injuries. But if the issue arises after any of the following, then it won’t qualify for workers’ comp:

  • Your employer fires you
  • A supervisor gives you a negative job review or reduces your work hours
  • HR requires disciplinary or corrective actions for you to keep your job

New Hampshire, Minnesota, Hawaii, and several other states have laws with similar language limiting mental anguish claims.

Expert Workers’ Comp Claim Assistance is Available    

To speak with a workers’ comp attorney in your state, please click the button below now. It costs you $0 to speak with an expert about mental anguish you developed while on the job.

You deserve to find out if your potential workers’ comp claim meets your state’s legal requirements!

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Laura Schaefer is the author ofThe Teashop Girls,The Secret Ingredient, andLittler Women: A Modern Retelling. She is also an active co-author or ghostwriter of several nonfiction books on personal and business development. Laura currently lives in Windermere, Florida with her husband and daughter and works with clients all over the world. Visit her online at and