Work-related physical injuries are compensable under Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. To be compensable, the injury must arise out of and in the course of the employment. Psychological injuries are also compensable in Illinois under two theories. If the psychological injury is related to a physical trauma, it is compensable under Physical-Mental theory and if the psychological injury is a result of a sudden, severe emotional shock traceable to a definite time, place and cause, it is also compensable under Mental-Mental theory.
In 2013, there are two important decisions by Illinois Appellate Courts regarding the application of the Mental-Mental theory to psychological injuries to the workmen. In Chi. Transit Auth. v. Ill. Workers’ Comp. Comm’n, 2013 IL App (1st), the Appellate Court of Illinois, First District, Workmen’s Compensation Commission Division held that the employee’s failure to seek immediate professional help after striking a pedestrian did not defeat her claim under the Mental-Mental theory. In this case, the court rejected the argument of the employer that the employee can recover under mental-mental theory only if the injury is immediately apparent. The claimant in this case was a bus operator. She suffered a severe emotional shock after a bus accident in which a passenger suffered injuries and she did not take treatment for her psychic injury for two months after the accident. She took the treatment only when the condition worsened.
In a most recent case - Diaz v. Ill. Workers’ Comp. Comm’n, 2013 IL App (2d) (April 2013), the Appellate Court of Illinois, Second District, Workmen’s Compensation Commission Division reversed the trial court’s order that dismissed a worker’s claim and remanded the case for further proceedings. The court held in this case that the question whether a workman suffered an emotional shock should be determined by an objective, reasonable-person standard, rather than a subjective standard that takes into account the claimant’s occupation and training. In this case, the claimant was a police officer. An individual pulled a gun and pointed it at the claimant. As a result, the claimant suffered severe mental shock and subsequent traumatic stress disorder. The gun used was a toy but the claimant did not realize this fact until sometime after the incident. The Commission dismissed the claim finding that the claimant failed to prove a compensable injury. The appellate court found that the incident was a severe emotional shock traceable to a specific time, place, and event that produced his disability.
Normally, mental disorders developed over time in the normal course of employment are not compensable. The recovery for non-traumatically-induced mental disorders is restricted. If a worker could prove that the mental illness is developed in a situation of greater dimensions than the day-to-day stress and strain which all workers suffer, the conditions exist in reality from an objective standpoint and the work conditions, were the major reason for the mental illness, he is entitled for the recovery.
If the mental injury is a result of the physical injury suffered by the worker, the mental injury is recoverable under the Workers’ Compensation Act.