Psychological/Psychiatric Injuries Under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act

Date: April 19, 2011
Posted In: DLP Law

         Q. Are psychological/psychiatric injuries compensable under the Pennsylvania Workers Compensation Act?

         A. Yes. There are three types of psychological injuries that are compensable under the Act:

(1) Mental/Physical injuries, i.e. where a psychological stimulus causes physical injury;

(2) Physical/Mental, i.e. where a physical stimulus causes a psychic injury; and

(3) Mental/Mental—where a psychological stimulus causes a psychic injury.

         These categories require different standards of proof with the “mental/mental” being the most rigorous and requiring proof of an “abnormal working condition”.

         Generally speaking,  a party filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits must prove that the alleged injury is both work-related and disabling.  Insofar as psychological injuries are highly subjective, the occurrence of the injury and its cause must be adequately established. Where the alleged psychological injury was not caused by physical injury, the claimant must submit evidence to prove (a) that he suffered a psychological injury and (b) that the injury was more than a subjective reaction to normal working conditions.  The claimant must further establish that the working conditions or work events are not merely perceived or imagined. Whether or not the working conditions are “abnormal” is a question which relates to the cause of the injury. Pennsylvania courts have ruled that while abnormal working conditions may be sufficient to link the injury to the employment, subjective reactions to normal working conditions will not meet the claimant’s burden of proof . 

        Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive.  Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column

Tom Cummings
Thomas P. Cummings has been a Partner with Dougherty Leventhal & Price, LLP since 1996 and has been with the firm since 1991. He focuses his practice on workers’ compensation, Social Security Disability and personal injury cases.