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Acute psychological reaction to trauma: the invisible injury

To most working people, a long-term disability (LTD) claim probably means compensation for a physical injury suffered on the job. Men and women who work with heavy equipment and machinery would certainly be familiar with this scenario. However, not all traumatic events cause physical damage, and an injury is not the only reason a worker may need to file a disability claim.

A traumatic event can have a severe psychological impact on anyone who witnesses it. Certain occupations are inherently more likely to see workers involved in stressful or even traumatic situations, but the potential exists in nearly every job field. Unfortunately, when workplace trauma does not leave a visible mark, it may be difficult to win a claim for LTD compensation.

What is a sudden and unexpected traumatic event?

Most people, at some point in their lives, have been startled by an unexpected event. A sudden loud noise is a mild example, or a person sneaking up from behind could qualify as another. Events like these give a brief scare that may take a few moments from which to recover.

An unexpected traumatic event is far worse than either of the above examples, and can cause lingering stress and mental issues. Examples include:

  • Witnessing or being the subject of an armed robbery
  • Witnessing a severe accident or fatality
  • Being threatened with physical violence
  • Receiving a death threat
  • Being deliberately placed in a potentially life-threatening situation

Defining an acute reaction

Not all traumatic events will cause an acute reaction in a witness or participant. However, it is possible that such an event could trigger a severe psychological response, and a worker has the right to file an LTD claim if his or her response meets certain criteria.

To qualify, the reaction generally must occur within four weeks of the traumatic event to be eligible for consideration. A delayed onset reaction may be considered, but the burden of proof will be more stringent.

A diagnosis by a regulated health care professional is required before a claim is considered. Acceptable diagnoses include, but are not limited to:

  • Anxiety or depressive disorder
  • Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Adjustment disorder
  • Acute stress disorder

What happens if an insurer denies my claim?

With an invisible injury, such as anxiety or PTSD, only you really know how you feel. The sad truth is, even with a diagnosis, your insurer may deny a claim. There may be many reasons for doing so. For example, the adjudicator might feel too much time has passed or that the condition was not caused by a work-related incident.

A psychological condition can be just as debilitating as any workplace injury, and an affected worker is just as deserving of compensation while he or she takes the time needed to recover. If your insurer denies your long-term disability claim for an acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected trauma in the workplace, don’t give up. Instead, consider speaking with a lawyer who can take up the fight on your behalf.

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