Driver's post-traumatic stress disorder after accident not compensable
Case name: Armstrong v. John R. Jurgenson Co., et al., No. 2011-CA-6 (Ohio Ct. App. 12/23/11).
Ruling: The Ohio Court of Appeals held that a driver's post-traumatic stress disorder was not compensable.
What it means: In Ohio, a psychiatric condition can be compensable if it results from a compensable physical injury.
Summary: A dump truck driver's truck was struck by a van traveling at a high rate of speed. The driver sustained injuries to his back and shoulder. The driver of the van was killed. The driver saw that the van driver sustained severe injuries and had blood coming out of his nose. The driver's employer allowed his workers' compensation claim for his physical injuries. The driver began having nightmares, anxiety, panic attacks, phobic responses to being in a car, and crying spells. A psychologist diagnosed him with post-traumatic stress disorder. He amended his workers' compensation claim to include his PTSD injury. The Ohio Court of Appeals held that he was not entitled to compensation for his post-traumatic stress disorder.
The court said that a psychiatric condition must have "arisen from" a physical injury to be compensable. The driver argued that to be compensable, a psychiatric condition must only be contemporaneous with a compensable physical injury. The court disagreed, stating that the term "contemporaneous" connotes a temporal nexus, not a causative nexus. The court said that psychiatric conditions that do not result from a physical injury do not constitute an "injury."
The court said that the evidence showed that the driver's psychiatric injury did not arise from the physical injuries he suffered but was the result of the "horrific injuries that caused the death of the other driver when their vehicles collided." A psychologist said that the driver's PTSD was "caused by being a visual witness" of the accident.
A dissenting judge opined that the driver's PTSD was compensable because it met the requirements for participation in the workers' compensation system and was contemporaneous with a compensable physical injury.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
February 23, 2012
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