Workers in Texas are not only at risk of physical injuries from their jobs. Employees can also suffer mental and psychological harm from excessive stress in the workplace or witnessing unusually traumatic events. It is important to note, however, that the Texas workers’ compensation system typically does not cover stress. In general, you can only recover compensation for stress – known as pain and suffering – with a work injury lawsuit.
Does Workers’ Compensation in Texas Cover Mental Stress or PTSD?
In short, no – the workers’ comp system in Texas cannot be used to pay for mental stress or psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Under Texas Labor Code Section 408.006, nothing in the Texas Workers’ Compensation Act can be construed to limit or expand recovery in cases of mental trauma injuries. It states that a mental or emotional injury that arises principally from a person’s employment is not a compensable injury under state law.
This rule means that you generally cannot file a workers’ comp claim for stress or psychological harm connected to your job in Texas. There is an exception, however, in Section 504.109 of the law, for certain first responders. This law states that if a covered first responder is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder that was caused by an event occurring in the course and scope of employment, the condition is a compensable injury. Covered workers include peace officers, emergency personnel and firefighters.
Stress Caused by Unlawful Harassment, Discrimination or Retaliation
If you are suffering from psychological stress due to an illegal act by your employer or coworker, such as sexual harassment or discrimination, you may be able to file a related claim in Texas for compensation. This will not take the form of a workers’ compensation claim but a complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) to request an investigation of your employer’s misconduct.
If the EEOC does not resolve the issue on your behalf through a settlement with your employer, it will give you permission to file a lawsuit for harassment, discrimination or retaliation, instead. A successful lawsuit could pay you for pain and suffering (including emotional distress and mental anguish) connected to the unlawful acts.
Damages Available in a Personal Injury Lawsuit
Another option could be filing a personal injury lawsuit against your employer or a company to pursue financial compensation for noneconomic damages such as stress. This remedy may be available to you if you suffered stress in connection with a preventable accident, injury or illness at work. For example, if your employer was negligent, or careless, in protecting you from harm at your job, you may have grounds to demand compensation for related stress. You could also qualify for other damages, such as:
- Past and future medical costs
- Lost income, tips, commissions and employment benefits
- Lost capacity to earn in the future due to a long-term injury
- Legal fees and out-of-pocket costs
- Physical pain and suffering
- Emotional distress or mental anguish
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Punitive damages
Unlike workers’ compensation, you will have the burden to prove fault or negligence in a personal injury lawsuit in Texas. You or your lawyer will need to prove that your employer (or another defendant) was the proximate cause of your pain and suffering based upon a preponderance of the evidence to qualify for damages. Your case may require evidence such as eyewitness statements, accident reports, video surveillance footage and your medical records.
Contact an Attorney About Your Work-Related Stress Case Today
If you are experiencing an excessive amount of stress because of your job or conditions at your workplace, contact Hill Law Firm for a free consultation with one of our San Antonio personal injury attorneys. You may be eligible for financial compensation through one or more legal remedies, depending on the circumstances. While the Texas workers’ comp system does not often cover work-related stress, your lawyer can explore other recovery outlets.