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Oklahoma workers’ compensation laws differ for psychological injuries

Q&A with Charlie Plumb

published in The Oklahoman | January 22, 2013

McAfee & Taft labor and employment attorney Charlie Plumb was featured in a Q&A with The Oklahoman discussing a recent workers’ compensation case involving a local firefighter and post-traumatic stress. The case highlights how Oklahoma’s workers’ compensation laws differ for psychological injuries.

The Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Act currently allows employees of insured employers to seek compensation for certain injuries or occupational diseases suffered while on the job, but restricts an employee’s ability to obtain benefits for nonphysical injuries, such as depression, extreme anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Plumb said.

“According to the act, a compensable injury ‘shall not include mental injury that does not arise directly as a result of a compensable physical injury, except in the case of rape or other crime of violence which arises out of in the course of employment,’” Plumb said. “If an employee suffers an emotional injury — for example, depression — as a result of suffering an accompanying physical injury, then the courts would consider compensation for both claims.”

Plumb noted the recent decision by the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals overturning a Workers’ Compensation Court’s ruling that a firefighter was entitled to benefits for emotional and psychological injuries — namely, PTSD and depression — he sustained after responding to a particularly horrific emergency scene.

You can read the entire article here.