Category Archives: Mental Injuries

Suicide – Recognize the Signs Before It’s Too Late

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Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan from The Jernigan Law Firm in North Carolina. Dealing with chronic illness or work injuries around the holidays can be very challenging and overwhelming. Unfortunately, sometimes people think that their best choice is suicide. This important blog post assists readers with recognizing the signs and directing folks who are struggling towards getting professional help. Because in this time of year where people are supposed to care for each other, sometimes it’s also important to listen and take care of each other.

Several years ago I had declined to represent an injured truck driver until his wife called me and said she found a suicide note and asked me to reconsider. I did and was able to help him. I believe there is a connection between suicide and workers’ compensation. Clearly the pain of an injury, coupled with the stress of not being able to return to work can cause tremendous psychological strain.

One Texas doctor actually testified at a legislative hearing that prolonged decisions on workers’ compensation coverage in the state had lead to an increase in work’ comp’ related suicides in recent years. “The incidence of those reports has been astonishingly high compared to five years ago,” he told the legislators, “when they were, to my knowledge, nonexistent.”

Below are some signs that you or somebody you know may be at risk. This list of warning signals comes from the website of the American Psychological Association. If you see any of these signs, seek help from a doctor or therapist, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Continue reading

The Very Real Dangers Of Worry (Part 1)

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Today’s post comes from guest author Kit Case from Causey Law Firm. As has been written about in previous blog posts, when a worker suffers an injury, there is often a mental component to processing through that injury. Worry is often an unwelcome and unexpected part of this process and actually can have long-term consequences on a person’s health. But if you know someone who has been injured, speaking to a lawyer to make sure your rights are protected and you know all your options can sometimes help alleviate that worry.

Worry is increasingly pervasive in our society as insecurity about the economy and safety, nationally and personally, grows daily. Worry is compounded in the daily lives of those who are injured or disabled, as they struggle with the added burdens of medical costs and loss of income, all of which engenders a bleak outlook on their future.

“At its worst, [toxic] worry is a relentless scavenger roaming the corners of your mind, feeding on anything, never leaving you alone.” This was the description of “worry” by Edward M. Hallowell, MD, in Worry, 1997, with a 2002 introduction. (This study is still considered the “bible” in lay literature and often quoted in scientific research.) Long ago, Dr. Charles Mayo said, “Worry affects circulation, the glands, the whole nervous system and profoundly affects the heart.” Indeed, worry appears to be, at worst, of genetic origins, and to a lesser degree a learned or environmental response.

Hallowell defines worry as two types: toxic worry and good worry. He likens toxic worry to a virus, insidiously and invisibly attacking you and robbing you of your ability to work, your peace of mind and happiness, your love and play. On the other hand, good worry, or adaptive worry, is necessary to avoid real danger and life-threatening situations.

Worry is categorized as part of Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) in most lay and scientific literature. The National Institute of Mental Illness (NIMH) defines GAD as people who go through the day filled with exaggerated worry and tension, even though there is little to provoke it. NIMH literature states that people with GAD anticipate disaster and are overly concerned about health issues, money, family problems or difficulties at work. GAD is diagnosed when a person worries excessively about everyday problems for at least six months. Worry, as part of GAD, is commonly treated with medication and cognitive therapy.

The everyday worry of the disabled or injured worker is direct, with anxiety and fear over money, physical abilities, medical care, vocational options, housing, food, and family disintegration. It does prey upon so many, compounding their physical health problems and environmental lives.

For more on the very real physiological implications of worry, check in next week for the next installment in this series.

Workers’ Compensation for Psychological or Emotional Injury

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About a year ago we posted a blog from a colleague of ours, Tom Domer from Wisconsin, on this topic. However, Nebraska laws are different from Wisconsin laws on this matter, and this distinction is important.

As a reminder of that post, Mr. Domer pointed out that Wisconsin allows workers’ compensation benefits for workers who suffer from mental injuries unaccompanied by physical injury (so called “mental-mental” injuries).

Unlike in Wisconsin, mental injuries in Nebraska are only compensable if the psychiatric problem or depression is a product of a physical work-related injury (“physical-mental” injuries). An exception to this rule is that first responders (sheriff, police, state patrol, firefighters, and EMT/paramedics) may recover work comp benefits for mental-mental injuries in Nebraska.

In sum, Nebraska limits mental-mental injuries only to first responders, and limits workers’ compensation coverage for mental injuries even when they are accompanied by physical injuries.

The Nebraska courts tend to split hairs as to whether a mental injury is caused by the physical injury or whether the mental injury is caused by something else. For example, if the mental injury is shown to have been caused by the stress of work or the stress of the workers’ compensation process or litigation, the mental injury will not be covered under work comp.

In sum, Nebraska limits mental-mental injuries only to first responders, and limits workers’ compensation coverage for mental injuries even when they are accompanied by physical injuries. Therefore, it is important that if you have a mental issue after your work comp injury, make sure to report to your doctor that it is from the physical injury and not from the stress of your workers’ compensation claim, if that is accurate for your situation. If not properly reported and/or documented, your mental injury many not be covered by workers’ compensation even if the depression came soon after your back injury.

Understanding Dystonia

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Dystonia FoundationToday’s post comes to us from our colleague Len Jernigan of North Carolina.

 

Several years ago I had a client in North Carolina who was an insurance man. While taking some papers out of the back of his car at work he slipped, hit his head and developed a neurological conditon called “Dystonia.” I did some research and discovered that it is a disorder that affects the nervous system, causing muscles to contract involuntarily.

it is a disorder that affects the nervous system, causing muscles to contract involuntarily

Significantly, I also found out it can be caused by trauma, although often dystonia develops without any trauma and may be genetic. The case was denied by the workers’ compensation carrier (and Continue reading

Is Your Workplace Making You Sick?

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New studies shed light on ways that workplace stress can be hazardous to your health.

Serious disabling medical conditions can arise from workplace stress. A recent study showed that people working long hours (11+) are more than twice as likely to experience major depression than those who work only 7-8 hours a day. Another study discovered that stressed workers have a 67% greater risk of heart disease. And other studies mention that “long working hours” lead to more risks of anxiety and a reduced ability to both think and sleep well.

Marianna Virtanen, one of the newest study’s authors, recently gave some tips to workers on ABCNews.com. One of her tips is to: “Make a distinction between work and leisure; don’t skip your holidays; take care of your health and well-being, especially sleep and exercise.” With Americans now working more hours than many of their counterparts in other countries, workers need to be proactive in taking caring of themselves.

But it isn’t just up to the workers. Psychological illnesses and depression cost companies money and result in less worker productivity, according to the CDC’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health. Without buy-in from employers and workers, the personal and corporate costs from psychological illness will never be reduced.

Unfortunately, Nebraska law Continue reading

Mental Injuries in Workers’ Compensation

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Today we’re featuring another guest post by our colleague Tom Domer of Wisconsin. Here Tom shares the legal tests that establish whether damages for mental injury will be awarded. For mental injuries following a physical injury, the standard is “Is the mental disability… related to the work injury?” For cases that don’t involve a physical injury, some states require that the stress that triggered the mental injury be extraordinary “beyond those stresses than the day to day emotional strain and tension which all employees must experience.” While these criteria can be difficult to meet, mental injuries are real and can be as debilitating as physical ones.

From time to time, headline stories appear in the national news about workers claiming compensation benefits for “mental stress” injuries.  Continue reading