Truck driver unable to link exiting truck to mental condition
Dewberry v. Tradewinds Transit, Inc., No. 2010-CA-000442-WC (Ky. Ct. App. 07/16/10, unpublished).
Ruling: In an unpublished decision, the Kentucky Court of Appeals held that a truck driver's psychological condition was not compensable because his condition was not the direct result of a physical injury.
What it means: For a psychological condition to be compensable under Kentucky's physical exertion standard, the physical exertion must have caused the mental harm or be directly related to it.
A truck driver was sleeping in the cab of his truck when a vehicle struck the back of the truck. The vehicle became lodged underneath. The driver was awakened by the truck shaking, but he thought it was a strong wind and went back to sleep. He was later awakened by a third party knocking on his door who told him about the vehicle stuck under the truck. The driver exited the truck and called the police. The driver developed post-traumatic stress disorder and sought compensation. The Kentucky Court of Appeals held that the driver's psychological condition was not compensable.
The driver asserted that his psychological problems arose from the incident. Kentucky law states that a psychological injury is compensable if it is a direct result of a physically traumatic event. This can also involve a physical exertion. The driver argued that he felt a shake, was awakened, and had to get out of his truck, which constituted a physical exertion. The court stated that the only physical exertion by the driver was when he exited his truck and that was not a physically traumatic event. The action of exiting the truck did not cause his mental problems and his problems were not directly related to it. The court agreed with the administrative law judge's finding that the driver's mental harm resulted from learning that a vehicle struck his truck and became trapped underneath.
The driver also argued that he sustained actual physical harm when his sleep was interrupted by the shaking of the truck. The court rejected this argument, noting that the driver never stated that he was actually harmed by the interruption of his sleep.
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October 19, 2010
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