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Can you claim workers’ compensation for mental health?

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Note: Jaewon’s story is a fictional scenario presented to illustrate how mental health may be involved in a workers’ compensation claim.


Generally speaking, workers’ compensation benefits cover mental health issues that are caused by someone’s job. Depending on the jurisdiction and details of the situation, people may be eligible for benefits. 

Jurisdiction is a term used to describe the power a party has to make legal decisions and judgments. Details of the situation include the cause of the mental health issue, how work played a role in the incident, and the severity of the damages. 

Workers’ compensation benefits may cover the treatment required and lost wages due to the mental health condition affecting job performance. As with any case, there are exceptions to coverage. 

Types of Mental Injuries 

The types of mental injuries that could be a result of someone’s job include the following:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder), which could be caused by witnessing or experiencing trauma in the workplace

Causes of Mental Injuries

Any of the following work-related injuries could lead to mental health problems:

  • Traumatic injuries, such as accidents
  • Chronic pain due to a singular event or repetitive strain injury (RSI)
  • Disfigurement or disability that causes struggles with self-esteem, body image, or feelings of hopelessness
  • Injuries that contribute to loss of livelihood, loss of identity, and feelings of isolation
  • Lack of support during rehabilitation, which could lead to feelings of abandonment by the employer or healthcare system, as well as feelings of anger and despair
  • Harassment by someone in the work environment or related to one’s employment that results in injury or illness, affecting someone’s ability to work

Pre-Existing Conditions

Although someone may have pre-existing conditions that align with work-related injuries, job duties could exacerbate those mental health conditions. Just because someone’s work didn’t cause the issue does not mean the issue wasn’t made worse by that person’s job. This is where an attorney can help advocate for your entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits. It is important to document your condition, seek professional help for it, and ask your employer’s HR department for assistance.  

Oklahoma Law 

In Oklahoma, you may be eligible for benefits if the mental health issues are caused by a physical injury, such as an anxiety disorder caused by a traumatic workplace event that left you with a bodily injury. There was an exception to this that took effect November 1, 2022. This exception stated that first responders and personnel could claim mental illness without a physical injury as long as it was caused by a response to the emergency. Chronic stress, on the other hand, may not be covered under Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation laws. If an employee dies, the surviving spouse and child may be eligible for death benefits.

Arkansas Law

In Arkansas, you may be compensated for 26 weeks following mental health injuries that happened at work. This is only the case if they are a result of a physical injury covered by workers’ compensation. The physical injury requirement does not apply if you are a victim of a violent crime that took place at work. Panic attacks are covered as long as you can prove they are work-related. If an employee develops a work-related mental illness and passes away because of that within one year of developing it, the employee’s dependents may receive benefits. 

Jaewon’s Story

Jaewon is an actor in a film involving a dance scene. While acting out the scene, he suffers a knee injury. His torn meniscus causes swelling whenever he takes a walk, and the lack of exercise turns into a depressive episode. 

His mood drastically drops. His knee injury requires costly imaging. He loses out on hourly income because he has to take time off work to heal from the injury and get his mood back on track. 

Because he is an employee, not an independent contractor or freelancer, he is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits through his employer. Also, because he has proof the mental injury was caused by a physical injury, he has enough evidence to build a case. 


Workers’ compensation insurance does not cover mental or physical distress. It may, however, compensate employees for economic damages acquired, such as treatment and lost wages. 

Typically, mental health injuries can only be claimed if they are caused by a physical injury. These types of claims have a high burden of proof, meaning they require sufficient evidence to build a case. 

A workers’ compensation lawyer can assist you in this process. At The Law Offices Of Craig L. Cook, we believe mental health is health, and we support workers in getting the compensation they deserve.