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Workers’ compensation and depression in Illinois

| Apr 25, 2014 | Workers’ Compensation

Depression is a medical disorder that causes persistent sadness and lack of interest. Depression can cause short and long-term emotional and physical problems. Typically, people suffering from depression find it difficult to go about their regular daily activities and may even feel like life is not worth living.

Depression’s impact on workers

Although no one is exactly sure what causes this mental illness, traumatic experiences can trigger depression. For example, employees may develop depression after a serious workplace accident renders them unable to work or causes them physical harm. Depression can also affect employees who were the victim of a workplace accident but are able to eventually return to the workplace. When this occurs, employees suffering from depression may struggle with their ability to concentrate, work with others and make decisions. Additionally, depression among workers is linked to high rates of absenteeism and alcohol and drug use which can lead to potential problems both at work and away from the workplace.

Illinois workers’ compensation laws

To become eligible for workers’ compensation benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, injured employees must prove their depression was caused by a physical injury that occurred in the workplace. A mental injury like depression on its own is typically not enough. Situations where a workers’ compensation claim for depression would likely be denied include when:

  • A manager is verbally abusive and causes an employee severe emotional distress that eventually leads to depression
  • Fellow employees spread rumors about another worker’s personal and work life which causes the employee to slip into a depressed state
  • An employee feels undervalued at the company they work for in a way that causes them to feel depressed and harms their work performance

In comparison, employees who are victims of severe workplace injuries and become depressed as a side effect of the physical harm may be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits.

Unique circumstances

While it can be complex, depression can be compensated for in certain circumstances under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act if the mental illness was not related to a specific injury. In the 2005 Illinois Appellate Court Case, Rotberg v. Industrial Commission, the plaintiff received workers’ compensation benefits for depression. In this case, a teacher suffered from this mental illness after breaking up a fight between her students and being falsely accused for battery and spending time in jail.

Since acquiring workers’ compensation benefits for depression can be difficult, injured employees suffering from depression as a result of a workplace accident or situation should seek the counsel of an attorney.