Injured workers are entitled to file workers compensation stress claims against their employers. Stress claims can range from being secondary to orthopedic complaints or a direct result of a specific incident. Each type of stress claim gets compensated differently.
Post-2013, the enactment of SB863 prohibited the “add-on” disability for sleep dysfunction, sexual dysfunction and psychiatric injury. Per Labor Code Section 4660.1(c), there shall be no increase in impairment ratings for sexual, sleep or psychiatric disorders arising as a compensable consequence of a physical injury.” This means that an injured worker is not entitled to collect additional permanent disability benefits for stress stemming from the aches and pains they are feeling. However, the labor code does not bar temporary disability or future medical care for psychiatric injury if it is secondary to orthopedic complaints. Thus, the only type of benefits an injured worker is limited in receiving from a stress claim stemming from orthopedic injury is permanent disability. However, if the sexual dysfunction, sleep dysfunction or psychiatric injury is caused directly from the injury, it may be rated under the AMA guides. For example, in the case of Montenegro (see City of Los Angeles v. WCAB) (2016) 81 CCC 611, the injured worker was a firefighter working for the City of Los Angeles. He contracted prostate cancer and it was found that his cancer was caused by work. The injured worker was claiming sexual dysfunction as well in this workers compensation claim. The Judge found that his sexual dysfunction was a direct result of his industrial injury of prostate cancer, thus, permanent disability was covered as an “add-on.”
It is important to note that this labor code section does not apply to psychiatric injuries that are a direct result of an accident, i.e. post-traumatic stress disorder developing from being involved in motor vehicle accident.
There are multiple exceptions to Labor Code Section 4660.1(c) for when a psychiatric injury is compensable. Per the labor code, the impairment may be compensable if it resulted from either (A) being a victim of a violent act or being directly exposed to a significant violent act within the meaning of section 3208.3; or (B) a catastrophic injury, including, but not limited to, loss of limb, paralysis, severe burn or severe head injury.
The language of the code as to what constitutes a “violent act” or a “catastrophic injury” is still being fleshed out by case law. However, we do have some case law to currently guide us in answering these questions. Our workers compensation attorneys are well-versed in this area of law and are willing to take your cases to trial in order to obtain the maximum benefits for an injured worker and to help develop new landmark case law. Consult Los Angeles workers compensation attorney, Kesh law, today for a free case evaluation and to determine if you are eligible for benefits.