Work-related trauma, PTSD, and workers compensation legislation: Implications for practice and policy


The current review examines work-related traumatic events, with particular focus on posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a potential mental health outcome. Despite considerable empirical knowledge about trauma and PTSD, a gap exists with respect to laws undergirding Workers Compensation (WC) insurance coverage for work-related mental health injuries. In this article, state and federal WC statutes are examined with an eye toward coverage of PTSD following work-related trauma. Examples of differences between states, as well as state-specific idiosyncratic facets of WC laws, are discussed. Federal WC programs are also examined. Two policy issues are highlighted: (a) lack of parity between WC coverage for work-related physical versus mental health injuries and (b) lack of reliance on psychological science in scripting legislation and determining WC benefits. The cost of untreated PTSD following work-related trauma is examined, focusing on costs to the individual, the employer, and society at large. The authors provide 3 recommendations designed to address discrepancies related to compensable psychological injuries following work-related trauma exposure.

Publication Title

Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy