West Virginia Supreme Court Finds That Worker’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Can Be Covered By Workers Compensation

gaveljustice.jpegRecently, the West Virginia Supreme Court ruled that a UPS driver could receive workers compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder caused by a hijacking while on the job.

Back in August 2010, Jay Hannah’s UPS truck was hijacked by a man carrying a rifle. The gunman fired a shot into the air near the driver’s side door and threatened Hannah’s life before forcing Hannah to drive him toward the police station. While on the way, the gunman saw a police cruiser parked at a gas station and forced Hannah to pull over. The gunman seized the keys to the trunk and fired a shot into the ground as he exited the truck from the passenger side. As the gunman exited the truck, Hannah managed to escape and hide behind a store nearby. Soon after, the gunman was shot and killed by the police.

Following the incident, Hannah saw a therapist and was diagnosed with PTSD. Hannah’s symptoms included nightmares and other sleep disturbances, hyper-vigilance, and depression.

Hannah then filed a workers compensation claim in October 2010, but was denied, with the administrator claiming that workers compensation did not cover psychiatric injury. Hannah appealed, and the Office of Judges affirmed the earlier decision in February 2011. However, after another appeal, the Board of Review ended up siding with Hannah, pointing out the physical aspects that led to Hannah’s injury: Hannah was detained, assaulted by sounds of gunfire, and had his keys taken away. This meant that Hannah had experienced a personal injury in the course of, and due to, his employment.

The West Virginia Supreme Court agreed unanimously with the Board of Review, finding that Hannah was not barred because his condition included definite physical symptoms, such as sleep disturbance.

The decision is fortunate for any worker who suffers from debilitating post-traumatic stress disorder due to a situation at work. If a worker suffers an injury during the course of performing work duties and the employer has workers compensation insurance, then the worker should receive compensation payments even if the worker is at fault for the injury. Therefore, it seems odd that the Office of Judges would deny a worker in a clear case where he was not at fault for a traumatic situation that happened while on the job. While the West Virginia Supreme Court settled the issue, there are many circumstances where a worker is injured and the Office of Judges reject valid claims. When that happens, the injured worker should contact an experienced West Virginia workplace injury attorney as soon as possible. An attorney could represent the worker through the process and ensure that his or her rights are properly represented, so that the worker can hopefully get the relief that he or she needs.

The Wolfe Law Firm has been providing legal services for nearly 25 years. Located in Elkins, West Virginia, the firm provides services in the areas of personal injury, criminal defense, bankruptcy, and mediation. If you are looking for an experienced West Virginia attorney, contact us today.

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