Employees in Tennessee May Be Eligible for Compensation for Work Injury-Related Depression

by mdp | September 25th, 2012

emergencyAccording to a recent ruling handed down by the Tennessee Supreme Court Special Workers’ Compensation Appeals Panel, employers in Tennessee may be held responsible for an employee’s mental illness or depression related to a serious work injury and subsequent termination from employment. In other words, if you have suffered a major on-the-job injury that ultimately results in severe depression or another type of mental illness, you may be entitled to compensation for this additional harm. With the help of our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Michael D. Ponce & Associates, injured workers in Tennessee can ensure that they are fully informed of their rights following a workplace injury, and can pursue the medical or disability benefits they deserve for their work injuries.

Depression Resulting from Debilitating Work Injury

In the case of surgical technician Stephen Vowell vs. St. Thomas Hospital, et al., Mr. Vowell sustained a herniated disc when he slipped on a wet floor while helping to move a patient in 2007. As a result of the work injury, Vowell required surgery to fuse the L3 and L4 vertebrae, which resulted in a 26% physical impairment and significant work restrictions – such as avoiding bending, stooping or twisting, and alternating sitting and standing every 20 minutes. Sixteen months after the injury, St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee terminated Mr. Vowell’s employment. In the meantime, Vowell had filed for workers’ compensation benefits, and had begun to display “symptoms of depression related to concerns about his ability to return to work in the future,” the case file said. After being terminated from his position at the hospital, Vowell experienced a “breakdown,” and sought further compensation for depression.

Compensation for Both Physical and Mental Injuries

As it stands, under the terms of the settlement, Mr. Vowell is set to receive $269,652.50 for his back injury, plus future medical benefits related to the TN workplace injury. The Tennessee hospital maintains that Vowell’s depression is not compensable because it did not arise out of or occur in the course of his employment at the hospital, and argues that, based on his admission to a mental health institute and his testimony, his mental health problems resulted from his loss of employment, not his back injury. The Tennessee appeals court, however, upheld the judgment for compensation for both Vowell’s back injury and his depression, finding that his mental illness was not a separate occurrence caused only by his termination from employment. Rather, the court ruled, it was a mental injury that arose from a compensable physical injury, thereby rendering the depression compensable as well.

Workers’ Comp Attorneys for Tennessee Work Injuries

Workers’ compensation laws in Tennessee were established to protect the rights of workers injured in accidents arising out of and occurring in the course of employment. If you have sustained an injury at work and you think you might be eligible for medical or disability benefits, consult our workers’ comp attorneys at Michael D. Ponce & Associates for information about filing a claim with your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. If you lost a loved one in a TN work accident, our workers’ comp lawyers can help you pursue death benefits for the medical, funeral and burial costs related to the accident. Our work injury lawyers have extensive experience helping injured workers in Tennessee protect their legal rights and seek fair and timely reimbursement for their work injuries. With our workers’ comp attorneys on your side, you can feel confident that your case will be presented in a professional and timely manner.