Is Mental Injury Covered Under Florida Law?

Our society has yet to equate mental illness with physical illness.  As we all know, many times mental injury or illness can be as painful and devastating as a physical injury.  Yet, mental illness still lurks in the shadows as something to be afraid of, as something to be ashamed of, and as something we need to hide.

Most likely, we can easily understand physical injury in others because we can see it.  Yet, we have a harder time understanding, or even believing, mental injury in others because it cannot be seen.  Accordingly, that sentiment is reflected in our laws.

Thus, to answer the question “is mental injury covered under Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law?” the answer is yes – but only when it is somehow tied to a physical injury.

This blog will take the time to discuss the nuances of Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law as it relates to mental and nervous injuries.  As you will see, Florida’s law does not adequately account for purely mental injuries even though such a mental injury could prevent you from working, or affect your ability to earn an income.

In the realm of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) injuries, however, Florida’s law seems to be evolving in a hopeful way.  It took the tragic circumstances surrounding a first responder at the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando to prompt a change in the law with regard to PTSD.  Yet, the change is a positive one.

If, after reviewing this information, you have more questions or you have a specific circumstance in your life related to mental injury, we welcome you to schedule a free consultation with one of our expert workers’ comp attorneys here in Jacksonville, FL.  We are Doolittle & Tucker, the best workers’ comp attorneys in Jacksonville, FL, and we are available to help you with any workers’ comp issues you have.  Call us today at 904-396-1734.

When Is Mental Injury Covered Under the Florida Workers’ Compensation Law?

Let us begin with the language of the Florida law itself.  Under Florida Law, Chapter 440.093 of Title XXXI, a section titled “Mental and nervous injuries” provides as follows:

A mental or nervous injury due to stress, fright, or excitement only is not an injury by accident arising out of the employment.  Nothing in this section shall be construed to allow for the payment of benefits under this chapter for mental or nervous injuries without an accompanying physical injury requiring medical treatment.  A physical injury resulting from mental or nervous injuries unaccompanied by physical trauma requiring medical treatment shall not be compensable under this chapter.

What that means in layman’s terms is that a mental or nervous injury by itself, with no accompanying physical injury, is not a work-related injury.  Therefore, someone suffering from depression resulting from a work issue is not compensable under Florida’s Workers’ Compensation Law.

Moreover, that language above also states that you are not covered under Florida workers’ comp for a mental condition that causes a physical injury unless the physical injury requires medical treatment.  Thus, work stress that causes an elevation of your blood pressure is not compensable, unless you need medical treatment for your blood pressure.

Finally, if a physical injury at work is the primary cause of your mental injury, then it is compensable.  Specifically, the Florida law states as follows:

The compensable physical injury must be and remain the major contributing cause of the mental or nervous condition and the compensable physical injury as determined by reasonable medical certainty must be at least 50 percent responsible for the mental or nervous condition as compared to all other contributing causes combined.  Compensation is not payable for the mental, psychological, or emotional injury arising out of depression from being out of work or losing employment opportunities, resulting from a preexisting mental, psychological, or emotional condition or due to pain or other subjective complaints that cannot be substantiated by objective, relevant medical findings

In sum, the following rules apply with regard to mental injury under Florida’s workers’ comp law.

  1. You can receive compensation if your mental injury results in a physical injury that requires medical treatment.
  2. You can receive compensation if your mental injury is caused primarily by a covered physical injury.

To give some context, you are eligible for compensation if your work stress causes you to have a heart attack that requires medical treatment.  Also, you are eligible for mental injury compensation if you are physically harmed at work, and that physical injury leads to anxiety, fear, and depression that is supported by the opinion of an objective mental health practitioner.

By contrast, however, under the Florida workers’ comp law you cannot receive compensation for mental health issues if you are only suffering mental, not physical, injury.  Thus, work stress that leads to insomnia or depression is not compensable.  Further, if you have a physical work injury, but your mental injury is connected more to your own personal issues than the physical work injury, you are not eligible for compensation.

The only exception to the above is if you are law enforcement officer, firefighter, or first responder who is suffering from PTSD.  That recent change in the law shows that the law is moving in a direction that will eventually encompass more support for purely mental illnesses that are related to work.

Experienced Workers’ Comp Attorneys in Jacksonville, FL Are Ready to Help You

Doolittle & Tucker, P.A. is a boutique law firm with the sole purpose of providing relief to individuals who are injured.  Often, we see legitimate claims denied by unscrupulous insurance companies that view an injured individual as someone trying to “game the system,” rather than a human being who needs help.

For over two decades, we have established an exceptional reputation across the country for zealously and relentlessly representing our clients, while maintaining the highest level of professionalism. Our goal is to be the most credible, ethical, and professional attorneys in the industry.  And most importantly, we want to make sure that we connect on a personal level with our clients, so they feel that they are getting the best of legal services in their time of need.  Call us for a free case review today at 904-396-1734.