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Workers' Compensation, anxiety and stress in North Carolina

A lot of jobs cause anxiety and stress for employees -- but there are times that anxiety and stress can become debilitating, especially if it starts to manifest itself in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder, depression or some other form of serious mental disorder.

That leaves many workers wondering if they're entitled to workers' compensation as a result. In North Carolina, the answer to that question depends entirely on the circumstances of your case.

North Carolina's workers' compensation laws are somewhat restrictive when it comes to what its insurers have to cover. An injury only counts for the purposes of workers' comp when it is an "injury by accident arising out of and in the course of the employment."

That doesn't mean that you can't collect benefits due to a serious psychological condition that developed as a result of your work -- but it does mean that you have to be able to point out the specific accident that caused the psychological injury to start.

In other words, if you develop post-traumatic stress disorder from the repeated anxiety or stress that comes from working as a 911 operator, you wouldn't be eligible for workers' compensation. On the other hand, if you develop severe panic attacks and anxiety after a fall from a broken safety harness on your construction job, you could qualify for benefits even if your actual physical injuries were slight. You might also be able to qualify for benefits if you develop post-traumatic stress disorder after seeing a co-worker killed right in front of you while you worked on a road crew together.

The nuances in the law make it important to be very specific when you talk with your mental health care provider about your condition. If you don't specifically relate your mental health problems back to an on-the-job accident, your claim for benefits will likely be denied.

If you are specific about what started the panic attacks or other mental issues you are having, and your claim for workers' compensation is still denied, an attorney can provide help with your appeals.

Source: www.ic.nc.gov, "Article I: Workers' Compensation Act," accessed Jan. 19, 2017

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