New Jersey’s Workers’ Compensation Courts Recognizes Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Posted in Workers' Compensation

Although many states, and their Workers’ Compensation Courts, do not recognize the devastating effects of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), fortunately for the residents of New Jersey, there is hope, and help.

According to a recent New York Times article Post-Traumatic Stress Still Haunts, at least 10,000 firefighters, police officers and civilians were affected by the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. The shockwaves from this one single event have had a long and widespread emotional impact on so many people who had no physical contact with the day’s events.

In the medical world, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) really only came into recognition over the last 30 years – beginning with soldiers returning from the Vietnam War. For the people who developed PTSD as a result of the events of September 11th, only treatment assistance, not compensation for their injuries, is available. Fortunately, the New Jersey Workers’ Compensation Courts recognize PTSD and its disabling effects.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) “PTSD is an anxiety disorder that some people get after seeing or living through a dangerous event. When in danger, it’s natural to feel afraid. This fear triggers many split-second changes in the body to prepare to defend against the danger or to avoid it. This “fight-or-flight” response is a healthy reaction meant to protect a person from harm. But in PTSD, this reaction is changed or damaged. People who have PTSD may feel stressed or frightened even when they’re no longer in danger.”

The NIMH lists 3 categories for the symptoms of PTSD:

  1. Re-Experiencing Symptoms – include flashbacks, bad dreams and frightening thoughts and can cause problems in a person’s everyday life;
  2. Avoidance Symptoms – include staying away from places, events, or objects that are reminders of the experience, feeling emotionally numb, feeling strong guilt, depression or anexity, losing interest in activities that were enjoyable in the past and having trouble remembering the triggering event
  3. Hyperarousal Symptoms – include being easily startled, feeling tense or “on edge” and having difficulty sleeping, and/or having angry outbursts. Hyperarousal symptoms are more constant and are not brought on by events or outside stimuli.

To receive workers compensation benefits, the incident needs to occur while you are working. The problem is, PTSD claims are the type that insurance carriers are extremely likely to deny. The symptoms of PTSD can take years to manifest themselves and are difficult to properly diagnose. It’s very easy for an insurance carrier to claim your psychiatric problems have nothing to do with a work incident. Insurance carriers will basically take a ‘prove it’ stance and point to any other factors.

This is why you should consult an attorney if you have developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of something that occurred to you while working. At Stark & Stark, we have years of experiencing representing workers with PTSD and can help you obtain treatment and benefits. Feel free to contact me in the firm’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office for a free consultation to discuss the options available to you.