Under the Workers’ Compensation Law of Maryland on Labor and Employment, employees may be compensated for accidental personal injuries or occupational diseases as a result of their employment.Developments in recognizing and treating disorders such as PTSD have led to changes in workers’ compensation laws.PTSD, while not considered an accidental personal injury, may fall under the category of occupational disease in some states.A definition of occupational disease as recognized in Maryland is as follows:
… occupational disease, which may be defined as some ailment, disorder, or illness which is the expectable result of working under conditions naturally inherent in the employment and inseparable therefrom, and is ordinarily slow and insidious in its approach.
Foble v. Knefely, 176 Md. at 486.
In Maryland, PTSD can be considered an occupational disease that involves disablement, or some form of incapacitation, that would prevent an employee from performing some, if not all, essential functions of their job. In order for PTSD to be covered and compensable under Maryland statute, the disorder must be caused by employment, the disorder must result in disablement, and the disorder must manifest as a result of the nature of the employment or be a direct result of exposure to some chemical or biological factor common in that course of employment.The disorder also cannot exist in conjunction with a physical disease.Md. L. Ency. Workers’ Compensation § 88 (2010).See also Means v. Baltimore County, 344 Md. 661 (1997).
Compensability of a PTSD claim in workers’ compensation was considered in a case before the Maryland Court of Appeals, and the court determined that in certain instances, PTSD may be compensable under § 9-502 of the Law and Employment Article.Means v. Baltimore County, 344 Md. 661, 662 (1997).The plaintiff was a paramedic in Baltimore County and as a result of her employment as a paramedic, she was exposed to gory, horrific, and shocking scenes.After witnessing such traumatic events, Means transferred jobs and became a firefighter.Despite the change, Means still experienced many of the symptoms of PTSD, including crying episodes and flashbacks of the events she witnessed and experienced as a paramedic.Id. at 663.
In another case, the Court of Appeals affirmed the Workers’ Compensation Commission’s denial of compensation to a worker who suffered from Posttraumatic Stress Syndrome. Davis v. Dyncorp, 336 Md. 226 (1994).Davis based the claim on the fact that he was being physically and mentally harassed at work.The denial was affirmed on the basis that he “did not sustain an occupational disease of mental disorder arising out of and in the course of employment.”Davis v. Dyncorp, 336 Md. 226 at 229 (1994).
Post-traumatic Stress Disorder, otherwise known as PTSD, is a mental disorder characterized by flashbacks, lack of emotion, and frightening memories, caused by a traumatizing event or threat.U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, National Institute of Mental Health, Fact Sheet: Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Research, http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-research-fact-sheet/post-traumatic-stress-disorder-research-fact-sheet.pdf.As defined in the American Psychiatric Association’s Quick Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-IV 209 (1994), a traumatic event requires that:
(1)the person experienced, witness, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others [and]
(2)the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.
The best way to determine if PTSD is covered for you under Maryland workers’ comp is to contact an attorney. Because of its complexities, our workers’ comp calculator does not cover PTSD.