Are Mental Health Injuries Covered by Workers’ Compensation in SC?
When you think of workplace injuries, you probably don’t think about mental health.
You’re more likely to picture a back brace on some poor soul who does a lot of heavy lifting on the job. Or maybe an office worker gingerly tapping their keyboard while wearing one of those uncomfortable looking carpel-tunnel wrist contraptions.
South Carolina’s workers’ compensation system covers most of the state’s employees, and if you suffer a physical injury on the job, there’s a good chance you’re eligible for benefits.
But, what about mental health issues? Can you get workers’ compensation benefits for emotional or mental injuries that happen on the job?
You can, but it’s much more difficult.
You Must Show That Abnormal Work Conditions Caused Your Injury
Most states’ workers’ compensation systems now cover purely mental injuries in the same way they cover physical injuries, but South Carolina is among a minority of states that continue to restrict recovery for these kinds of injuries.
Employees in SC are required to prove that the stress or mental health injury is extraordinary and the result of abnormal working conditions.
In Brandon Bentley v. Spartanburg County, the SC Supreme Court ruled that a sheriff’s deputy who shot a suspect was not entitled to benefits.
After the shooting, the deputy began struggling with anxiety and depression, and his mental health care providers determined that he was unable to work. He applied for workers’ compensation benefits but was denied. When he appealed, the Supreme Court upheld the denial, saying that using deadly force is “not an unusual or extraordinary employment condition” for a deputy.
Of course, having to defend your life with deadly force would not be considered a normal part of most jobs. But many of the events that cause mental distress at work would be considered normal and therefore would not be covered. These include:
- Disciplinary or corrective actions;
- Job termination;
- Long hours; and
- Unwanted transfers.
What if there are no unusual or extraordinary working conditions?
Mental Distress That Accompanies a Physical Injury
If your mental injury is tied to a physical injury, you have a much better chance of a successful claim. For example, if you suffer a physical injury on the job and we can prove that it led directly to bouts of anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder, we have a better chance of helping you get benefits.
Because it is so difficult to prove that a mental injury was caused not only by work conditions but also abnormal work conditions, you will have an uphill – but not impossible – battle to get coverage for a purely mental or emotional on-the-job injury.
SC Workers’ Compensation Lawyers in Myrtle Beach
Your Myrtle Beach workers’ comp attorney at the Lovely Law Firm can help you to file your workers’ comp claim, build your case with medical and employment records, and find the right medical and vocational experts to prove the severity of your injury.
If you have questions about whether your mental health injury is covered by workers’ compensation, call us today at (843) 839-4111 or fill out our online form to schedule a free consultation and case evaluation.