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Connecticut court allows workers' comp benefits for PTSD

The Connecticut Supreme Court recently heard a case questioning whether a worker could qualify for worker's compensation benefits for post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Generally, psychological injuries alone are not covered under Connecticut's Workers' Compensation Act. This case provides an interesting review as it delves into whether a psychological injury that resulted from a physical injury that the worker suffered while on-the-job would qualify for benefits.

Facts of the case

The case, discussed by the Connecticut Law Tribune, involves a man who delivered packages for FedEx. According to the worker, the problem began when a new manager began implementing a very strict delivery schedule in 2009. Since that time, the worker had been required to make a delivery once every four minutes. In an attempt to meet this requirement, the worker rarely got lunch until after 4:30 p.m. and often worked without any water or bathroom breaks.

On a particularly hot day in 2009, the worker requested a reduction in his workload. The request was denied. Later in the day, the worker began having difficulty breathing and was suffering from an abnormally rapid heartbeat. During a stop at a local fire station, the firefighter who received the delivery called an ambulance because it was believed that the worker was suffering from a heart attack.

The worker was taken to a hospital and was treated for dehydration and atrial flutter and fibrillation. He received follow up care from a cardiologist and began receiving psychiatric treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder. It was stated that this disorder developed out of fear that the worker would suffer another cardiac disability.

The workers' comp claim

After beginning treatment, the worker filed for workers' compensation benefits to cover both the physical injury suffered from the heart issues and the psychological injury from the PTSD. The employer argued that the PTSD was not a qualifying injury. FedEx argued that the employee was not fearful of future cardiac issues, but instead fearful that he would lose his job. This fear of unemployment, according to FedEx, was the true cause of the PTSD.

Ultimately, the court disagreed and found in favor of the worker.

Lessons from this case

This case provides an example of the complex and evolving nature of workers' compensation law in Connecticut. It also highlights the type of difficulties a worker can face when attempting to get the benefits he or she is entitled. As a result, those who are injured are wise to seek legal counsel to help better ensure that their rights are protected.

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