Many New Jersey workers have suffered from depression that was so intense that the person could not return to work. In such situations, the victim of depression often wonders whether he or she can obtain workers’ compensation for the depressive episode and loss of income. In past years, depression was often dismissed as “just feeling blue.” Fortunately, modern medicine and psychiatry have improved society’s understanding of depression. We now accept depression as a genuine mental state with real physical, neurological, and physical symptoms. For that reason, depression be the basis for a workers’ compensation claim if the victim can submit the required evidence to support the claim.
The worker who seeks workers’ compensation benefits for depression must first prove that the depression was caused by a work-related condition. In New Jersey, “causation” is generally interpreted to mean “reasonably incident to the claimant’s work conditions.” Proof of causation will require the testimony of an expert. In cases of disability caused by stress or depression, this evidence will usually be given by a psychologist or psychiatrist. An expert in workplace conditions may also testify to support the allegation that certain job-related conditions, such as loud repetitive noise or risk of serious injury, can cause job-related depression. These experts may also be required to testify concerning the extent of the depression – is it likely to be short-term or long-term, perhaps permanent?
The damages in workers’ compensation cases are set by statute as a percentage of the worker’s income prior to the injury.
Anyone who may want to pursue a claim for workers’ compensation benefits based upon work-related depression may wish to consult an experienced workers’ compensation attorney for an evaluation of the medical records and an opinion on the likelihood of recovering benefits.