Tennessee Court Okays Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Mental Injuries

This August, the Tennessee Supreme Court affirmed a trial court decision that awarded an injured employee workers' compensation benefits for a mental impairment that arose out of a workplace injury. The decision should help future injured workers in Tennessee recover appropriate compensation for their injuries, both physical and mental.

Recent Tennessee Workers' Compensation Court Decision

The injured employee was a surgical assistant at a Tennessee hospital. While moving a patient, he slipped on a wet floor, seriously injuring his back.

After his injury, the surgical assistant returned to work with modifications to his job duties to accommodate his injuries. During this time, he became depressed about his work situation and his uncertain ability to return to continue to work in the future. The man was later fired by his employer. When the hospital let him go, the injured worker had a mental breakdown that required professional care.

The trial court that heard the injured employee's case awarded him workers' compensation benefits for his depression. The hospital appealed this decision, claiming that the surgical assistant's mental condition did not "arise from his employment" but rather from his loss of employment, and was thus not covered by workers' compensation. The case moved to the Supreme Court, which affirmed the trial court's decision and found the surgical assistant's mental impairment compensable under the state's workers' compensation laws.

Tennessee Workers' Compensation Law

Tennessee law requires most employers to carry workers' compensation insurance, which provides benefits to employees when they are injured on the job. Employees injured in the workplace may be eligible for disability benefits, medical benefits and permanent disability settlements. Death benefits are also available to families who lose a loved one due to a work injury.

In the recent Supreme Court case, the surgical assistant was deemed totally and permanently disabled by his physician. Under Tennessee workers' compensation law, workers are deemed to be totally and permanently disabled if they have reached maximum medical improvement but have not returned to pre-injury status. Such individuals are eligible to receive a settlement for their permanent injuries.

In these cases, the employer's insurance provider and state workers' compensation officials perform an Independent Benefit Review to decide what settlement amount is appropriate. This decision can be appealed by the worker if he or she believes the amount is too low.

Workplace injuries can be stressful events that may cause employees to worry about their future ability to work. Sometimes, workers experience depression and even Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder as a result of their injuries. For these individuals, treatment for their mental conditions is crucial for a full recovery. The recent Supreme Court decision upholds this idea and should enable other injured workers in Tennessee to obtain compensation for their mental injuries.

If you or a loved one is struggling with a mental impairment due to a workplace injury, an experienced personal injury attorney can help.

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