New York City Personal Injury Law Blog
Claims for Work-Related Stress
In recent years, there has been a steady rise in the incidence of stress-related illness that is caused by work. According to these studies, one-fourth of employees consider their jobs to be the main stressor in their lives and three-fourths believe that employed people today have more on-the-job stress than they did a generation ago.
Well for one, in this recession, they are lucky to have a job!
Work-related stress claims are often challenging to take forward due to the general principle that an employer is free to make the assumption that an employee can cope with the normal pressures of work, unless the employer is notified that it is not the case. In most cases, workplace stress injuries are physical in nature and they often stem from repetitive movements that result in muscle strain and carpal tunnel syndrome, among other conditions. In rare cases, work-related stress can cause mental or emotional injury.
What is Required to Make a Stress Claim?
For a successful stress claim, the employee must show:
- they suffer from a psychiatric illness or injury that is medically recognized
- there was a real risk of psychiatric illness posed by their work and that the employer was aware, or ought to have been aware, that there was exposure to that risk
- there were no reasonably practicable or adequate steps taken by the employer to reduce or prevent the risk of psychiatric harm to the employee
- work and the employer’s breach of duty caused, or contributed to, the employee’s psychiatric injury
Psychiatric/Mental/Emotional Stress Caused by Work
It is more difficult to prove psychiatric or emotional stress injuries. Therefore, it is more challenging to receive compensation for them. Worker’s compensation laws vary according to the jurisdiction in a state. However, in some states, claims for emotional stress are not covered by these laws. The reason for this may be because it is harder to demonstrate that your job resulted in mental or emotional stress as opposed to another area of your life that is outside the workplace.
Making a Work-Related Stress Claim Under Personal Injury Laws
If the conduct or factor that causes you work-related stress is extreme and if worker’s compensation does not cover it, you may be able to take action outside of the worker’s compensation system. This means you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit for negligent infliction of emotional distress, or even intentional infliction of emotional distress.
Typically, you will be required to prove some pretty preposterous conduct on the defendant’s part, i.e. your employer or co-worker. Therefore, you need to keep in mind this type of claim would typically involve more than just a run-of-the-mill on-the-job stress.
Things to do for Work-Related Stress Claims
So what can you do if you feel that you are suffering from psychiatric or emotional stress at work? The first thing you should do is tell someone about it. Meet with your superiors and discuss your problem with them. You should make a formal report if necessary. Documentation of this kind will become a part of your employment file and no matter what type of action you decide to take, it could be crucial evidence that you need.
If there are specific rules in your company about the steps required to report claims, including to whom they are made, whether there is a time limit for filing them (i.e., you need to file them within 60 days from the date of the event that caused the injury) or whether they need to be in writing, it is important to make sure that you follow those rules to ensure that your rights will be protected.
You may also find it helpful to talk with trusted co-workers. You should request them to make notes about events they personally observe, in case witnesses are required when you file the claim. Finally, make sure to keep a journal.
Write down events and dates, the people who were present, the conversation that took place and how you handled it. It is important to be as specific as possible. Remember that it will be more helpful to you later if you include as many details as you can in case you decide to take legal action in the future.
If you believe you or a loved one has suffered a stress-induced injury due to your work environment and wish to make a claim, you should seek the legal advice of a New York personal injury lawyer at Rosenberg, Minc, Falkoff, & Wolff of RMFW Law at 212 697 9280.
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