If an accident happens to you at work, and you are physically injured, you will probably qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

But what about less obvious injuries that slowly emerge over time? And what about emotional or mental injuries arising from work-related stress? Can you be compensated for these kinds of injuries?

Workplace stress injuries include physical injuries from repetitive movement and muscle strain such as chronic back injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome.

Work-related stress can also trigger emotional or mental injuries, and in some cases, workers who have suffered emotional or mental job-related injuries may also qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.

In south Florida, if you have sustained any physical or mental injury at your work – or because of your work – you should seek personalized advice about your case by speaking with a skilled West Palm Beach workers’ compensation attorney.

Your attorney can help you understand your legal rights and options and can help you take appropriate legal action, which might include filing a workers’ compensation claim or a personal injury claim.

WHAT ARE SOME EXAMPLES OF PHYSICAL STRESS INJURIES?

Many of the injuries caused by physical stress are not difficult to diagnose.

For example: a data entry clerk who develops carpal tunnel syndrome, a warehouse stock person with a chronic back injury, or a jackhammer operator who, over time, develops chronic nerve damage. In most cases, in Florida and every other state, an employee cannot sue an employer for a job-related injury.

However, under worker’s compensation in Florida, an injured employee may receive a percentage of his or her average weekly earnings while away from work and receiving treatment for the work-related injury.

In most cases, an injured employee should report a work-related injury as quickly as possible to his or her manager, supervisor, or human resources department to begin the workers’ comp claims process.

That process may require an independent medical examination by a doctor chosen by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurer. Some injured workers have found that these examinations may not always be as “independent” as they are supposed to be.

A workers’ compensation attorney can help you file your claim and even arrange for you to see genuinely independent doctors, if necessary, for second opinions.

HOW SOON SHOULD YOU CONSULT A WORKERS’ COMP ATTORNEY?

In fact, if you are injured at work, whether it is suddenly in an accident or over time like a stress injury or emotional injury, you should consult a workers’ compensation attorney as soon as you’ve been injured, reported the injury to your employer, and been seen by a doctor.

A workers’ comp lawyer can review or assist you with the application for worker’s comp benefits to ensure there are no mistakes or misunderstandings that could delay the payments you need.

What does the worker’s compensation system provide to injured workers?

If you suffer from a repetitive stress injury that was not preexistent and has been caused by your physical activity at your job, in the state of Florida, you should be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits that include:

• temporary weekly wage compensation benefits
• full payment for all injury-related medical treatment
• permanent impairment benefits if necessary
• vocational rehabilitation assistance if necessary

You won’t be surprised to learn that emotional and mental stress injuries are more challenging to prove, so it’s more difficult to receive workers’ comp benefits for these injuries.

Insurance companies that handle workers’ compensation want to limit liability and payouts to injured employees, so they often deny benefits when an injury can’t be easily proven.

Anyone can see, for example, if you’ve broken an arm or a leg, but if your injury is emotional, it’s tough to prove.

WHAT IF YOUR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIM IS DENIED?

If you have suffered any type of work-related injury in south Florida, a workers’ compensation attorney will probably be able to help you obtain the workers’ comp benefits you need.

However, if the injury is primarily a mental or emotional injury, and if your claim for workers’ compensation benefits is denied, you may have grounds for a lawsuit outside of the workers’ comp system.

In rare cases, an employee might be able to bring a personal injury or employment discrimination lawsuit for egregious harassment, a hostile work environment, or intentionally inflicting emotional distress.

However, because these kinds of lawsuits claim more than mere on-the-job stress, an employee will have to offer some convincing evidence for such a lawsuit to prevail.

What is the best way to proceed if you’ve suffered mental or emotional injury due to job-related stress?

A West Palm Beach workers’ compensation attorney can review the details of your case, explain your rights and options, and recommend the best way forward.

Some employees may also have the option of filing a state employment claim or a Social Security disability claim for job-related stress injuries, but qualifying for these programs can also often be difficult.

SHOULD YOU FILE A CLAIM OR AN INJURY REPORT?

If you struggle with a serious work-related mental or emotional injury, do not keep it to yourself or pretend that it will fade away. If you have coworkers you trust, talk with them and obtain their insights.

Make a formal injury report to your employer. That might be enough to trigger change in some cases where the core issue is harassment or a hostile workplace.

If nothing changes when you file a formal report, at least you’ve created evidence to document your case.

Many employers have precise rules regarding how claims must be reported, where they must be submitted, whether they must be in writing, and whether there is a time limit for reporting certain types of injuries.

When you file a claim or injury report with an employer, adhere to those rules so that your claim is not automatically denied or rejected.

Some insurance companies will use any loophole in the law to deny a workers’ compensation or personal injury claim.

Especially when injuries aren’t visible – like stress injuries and emotional injuries – injured employees are going to need an attorney’s help.

If you’ve been injured at work, compensation is your right, and experienced legal counsel is also your right. Take advantage of those rights, because nothing is more important than your health or your future.