Agent timely filed claim after hurricane aggravated stress disorder
Case name: Gregoire v. Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries, No. 11-CA-321 (La. Ct. App. 04/10/12).
Ruling: The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that an agent's claim for post-traumatic stress disorder was timely filed.
What it means: In Louisiana, a worker who suffers from a preexisting medical condition is entitled to benefits if the accident aggravated, accelerated, or combined with the preexisting condition to produce disability.
Summary: An enforcement agent for a state department of wildlife and fisheries was assigned to assist in rescue operations in the aftermath of a hurricane. He witnessed many "horrific" events. Three years later, he was stationed at the department's training academy to prepare for another hurricane. The second hurricane passed directly over the area where the agent was stationed. He was forced to take shelter in his vehicle, which he described as a "harrowing" experience. He began reliving the "horrific" images he witnessed during the first hurricane. A hurricane preparedness simulation, which mimicked the rescue mission from the first hurricane, triggered more memories of the events. He quit work and sought workers' compensation benefits for an aggravation of post-traumatic stress due to the second hurricane. The department asserted that the claim was not timely filed because the injury occurred after the first hurricane. The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that his claim was timely filed within one year of the accident.
The court explained that the events that occurred in the aftermath of the first hurricane were the preexisting deficiency that made the agent more susceptible to post-traumatic stress disorder. The second hurricane was the "accident" that disabled him.
A dissenting judge opined that the first hurricane was the "accident," and the second hurricane was the "aggravation."
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June 7, 2012
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