MO Workers Comp Update – Commission Awards PTD for Psychological overlay from physical injury
MO Workers Comp Update
The Missouri Industrial Commission awarded Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits in the recent case of Deborah Tedder v. Missouri Department of Corrections (April 11, 2019) (Read the decision HERE). Claimant slipped and fell, with injuries at the left elbow (post-surgical) and a fracture of the left knee (post-surgical).
What apparently made this a PTD case is that the claimant alleged that she had psychological trauma as a result of her physical injuries. Regarding the psychological trauma, the Commission award states: “On February 23, 2012, Employer advised Claimant her services were no longer needed and offered her a resignation or termination. Her termination caused Claimant’s symptoms to increase.”
PSYCHOLOGICAL TRAUMA FROM EMPLOYMENT TERMINATION IS NOT COMPENSABLE
Neither the award from the ALJ nor the award from the Commission indicates whether the Employer (Missouri Department of Corrections) argued that any psychological trauma resulting from a termination of employment is NOT compensable under Missouri Law. On this point, Section 287.120.9 states:
“A mental injury is not considered to arise out of and in the course of the employment if it resulted from any disciplinary action, work evaluation, job transfer, layoff, demotion, termination or any similar action taken in good faith by the employer.”
Since claimants’ attorneys are now using psychological trauma to increase the value of workers compensation claims, including turning a PPD claim into a PTD claim, an additional step must be taken as a defense against a PTD claim.
Specifically, with any workers comp claimant who is complaining of ANY psychological trauma, have a psych IME performed BEFORE employment is terminated. That way, the claimant’s mental state can be documented before the employment termination occurs. Then, if the claimant later alleges PTD, the evidence can demonstrate the claimant’s baseline mental state before the termination. If the mental state worsens AFTER the employment is terminated, the Employer/Insurer can argue that any such increase in psychological trauma is the result of the termination of employment – – thereby rendering that psychological trauma non-compensable under Section 287.120.9.
If this issue applies to any current situation you are dealing with, or if you want to discuss how this award or strategy might apply to any current or future cases, please feel free to call or email.