Employees can recover workers’ compensation benefits for disabling mental injuries suffered as a result of workplace events, although one would never know this if one looked exclusively at the actions of workers’ compensation carriers. Carriers routinely deny workers’ compensation stress claims. In 22+ years of representing employees, I have never encountered an instance in which a carrier voluntarily accepted such a claim.
The carrier’s denial of the employee’s claim is not the end of the road, however. The employee can appeal the carrier’s denial by requesting a hearing before the New Hampshire Department of Labor within 18 months of the date of the carrier’s denial of the claim.
A mental disability is potentially compensable if it is triggered by workplace events other than a performance evaluation rendered in good faith. To prevail on a workers’ compensation claim for a disabling mental injury, the employee must prove legal causation and medical causation. To prove legal causation, the employee must show that the workplace stress causing the disability was greater than the stress encountered by a person in everyday life outside of work. To prove medical causation, the employee must show through competent medical evidence that workplace stress probably caused or contributed to the employee’s disability.
First responders in New Hampshire such as firefighters and law enforcement officers will soon have an easier time recovering workers’ compensation benefits for disabling mental conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Pursuant to RSA 281-A:17-c, effective January 1, 2021, a presumption will arise that disabling PTSD suffered by a first responder is work-related for purposes of workers’ compensation benefits.
Attorney Benjamin T. King’s peers have rated him among the “Best Lawyers in America” in representing employees in workers’ compensation matters.