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Workers’ Comp for Mental Health: A State-by-State Guide for 2024

Written by
A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.
Victoria Muñoz
Lead Attorney
May 22, 2024  ·  4 min read
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Most workers’ compensation advice assumes you have a physical injury, but mental health conditions can also interfere with your ability to carry out your job duties. Most states do offer workers’ compensation coverage for mental health, though getting your claim approved is usually difficult. This guide explains when workers’ comp covers these conditions and how to increase your chances of qualifying.


Can you get workers’ comp for mental health conditions?

It depends on your condition and where you live. Not all states allow workers’ comp claims for mental health conditions. Even if your state does allow it, getting benefits is difficult.

You need to prove that your condition was directly and maybe solely caused by your job. If you can point to a specific incident that led to your mental health condition, it’ll be easier to qualify. It’s also easier if you can file a claim for a physical work injury and show that your mental health condition was caused by that other injury.

As an example, if you developed post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after an armed robbery at your job, you could build a case using that incident as evidence. If you were also physically harmed during the robbery, filing a successful claim will be easier.

That doesn’t always mean you should give up on getting benefits, though. Look into your state’s specific laws and talk to a local workers’ comp lawyer if you think there’s a connection between your mental health and work.

Atticus has answers to your workers' comp questions.

States that offer workers’ comp for mental health

The differences in state laws make it hard to tell what your chances of success are unless you know your state’s policies. The table below breaks down the basics of each state’s laws on workers’ comp and mental health.

State

Is mental health covered?

Are mental-only claims covered?

Alabama

Yes, if it results from a compensable physical injury1

No

Alaska

Yes, but only under extraordinary or unusual work-related stress2

Yes

Arizona

Yes, but only under extraordinary or unusual work-related stress3

Yes

Arkansas

Yes, if you also have a compensable physical injury4

No

California

Yes, if you can prove it's work-related with evidence5

Yes

Colorado

Yes, if you can prove it was caused primarily by your work6

Yes

Connecticut

Yes, for PTSD7

Yes, for PTSD

Delaware

No, only physical injuries qualify8

No

District of Columbia

Yes, if you can prove it's work-related with evidence9

Yes

Florida

Yes, if you also have a compensable physical injury10

No

Georgia

Yes, if you also have a compensable physical injury11

No

Hawaii

Yes, except as a result of good-faith disciplinary action by your employer12

Yes

Idaho

Yes, if you also have a compensable physical injury13

No

Illinois

Yes, if you can prove it's work-related with evidence

Yes

Indiana

Yes, if you can prove it's work-related with evidence14

Yes

Iowa

Yes, if you can prove it's work-related with evidence

Yes

Kansas

Yes, if you also have a compensable physical injury15

No

Kentucky

Yes, if it's caused by a compensable physical injury16

No

Louisiana

Yes, but only under extraordinary or unusual work-related stress17

Yes

Maine

Yes, but only under extraordinary or unusual work-related stress18

Yes

Maryland

Yes, for PTSD19

Yes, for PTSD

Massachusetts

Yes, except as a result of good-faith disciplinary action by your employer20

Yes

Michigan

Yes, if you can prove it's work-related with evidence21

Yes

Minnesota

Yes, for PTSD22

Yes, for PTSD

Mississippi

Yes, if you can prove it's work-related with evidence23

Yes

Missouri

Yes, but mostly for first responders with PTSD24

Yes, for PTSD

Montana

No, only physical injuries qualify25

No

Nebraska

Yes, for first responders with PTSD26

Yes, for first responders with PTSD

Nevada

Yes, but it must result from a single event27

Yes

New Hampshire

Yes, for conditions that cause physical symptoms and stress disorders in first responders28

No

New Jersey

Yes, if you can prove it's work-related with evidence29

Yes

New Mexico

Yes, if caused by a traumatic event that is outside of your usual work experience 30

Yes

New York

Yes, except as a result of good-faith disciplinary action by your employer31

Yes

North Carolina

Yes, if you can prove it's work-related32

Yes

North Dakota

Yes, if it's caused by a compensable physical injury33

No

Ohio

Yes, if it's caused by a compensable physical injury34

No

Oklahoma

Yes, if it's caused by a compensable physical injury or results from a violent crime35

No

Oregon

Yes, if you can prove work conditions were the major contributing cause36

Yes

Pennsylvania

Yes, if you can prove it resulted from a specific stimulus or inciting event

Yes

Rhode Island

Yes, if you can prove identifiable physical trauma or stress beyond normal day-to-day strain37

Yes

South Carolina

Yes, if you can prove it's work-related with medical evidence38

Yes

South Dakota

Yes, if it's caused by a compensable physical injury39

No

Tennessee

Yes, if it's caused by a compensable physical injury or a sudden, unusual work event40

Yes

Texas

Yes, if you can prove it's work-related with medical evidence41

Yes, for first responders with PTSD

Utah

Yes, if you can prove it's work-related with medical evidence42

Yes

Vermont

Yes, if caused by a physical injury or conditions outside of the typical stress of your job43

Yes

Virginia

Yes, if it's caused by a physical injury, a clear incident, or PTSD44

Yes

Washington

Yes, if it's caused by a physical injury, a clear incident, or PTSD45

Yes

West Virginia

Yes, if it's caused by a compensable physical injury or you're a first responder with PTSD46

No

Wisconsin

Yes, but only under extraordinary or unusual work-related stress47

Yes

Wyoming

Yes, if it's caused by a compensable physical injury or you're a first responder48

No


Conditions that can qualify for workers’ comp

As long as your state covers mental health claims, a condition can qualify if it’s caused by your work and leaves you unable to continue doing your job.

The most common mental health condition that qualifies for workers’ compensation is PTSD. You still need to prove that it was caused by your job, but most states recognize PTSD as a compensable injury.

If you’re a first responder, it’s easier to file a workers’ comp claim for PTSD in almost all states. Even states that don’t typically cover mental health claims will usually give benefits to first responders (especially firefighters) experiencing PTSD because of their jobs.

What about pre-existing conditions?

Pre-existing conditions could qualify if they significantly worsened because of your job. However, it’s difficult to convince an insurance company and a state court that your condition wouldn’t have grown worse independent of your job. Being able to point to a specific work incident that made your condition markedly worse could make it easier. Your best option is to talk with a workers’ comp lawyer to learn more about evidence that could help your case.


Conditions that don’t qualify for workers’ comp

Workers’ comp only covers conditions that require you to miss multiple days of work. If you have a condition that makes it harder to work but you can still do your job in full, you won’t be able to get benefits. (See how much work you need to miss to qualify.)

General stress caused by your job isn’t eligible for workers’ comp. You may qualify for incidents that lead to “extraordinary or unusual work-related stress,” but proving that something is beyond an expected level of work stress isn’t easy.

You also can’t qualify for workers’ comp if your condition is a direct result of disciplinary action or a personnel decision, like getting fired, laid off, or transferred. 

Some states, such as California, also make cumulative mental health claims harder by requiring you to have worked at your job for at least six months.49

Self-diagnosed conditions also won’t qualify. The insurance company and state board will need a diagnosis from a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist.


The 2 types of workers’ comp mental health claims

There are two main types of mental health claims for workers’ compensation and some states only allow one or the other:

  • Physical-mental: A mental health condition that resulted from or is clearly linked to a physical injury, like PTSD after an armed robbery

  • Mental-mental: A mental health condition that wasn’t caused by a physical injury but was caused by your work

1. Physical-mental workers’ comp claims

Mental health conditions that develop after or as a symptom of a physical injury are much more likely to qualify for workers’ comp medical coverage and benefits. That’s because workers’ comp laws in every state cover employees with a physical injury. So if you can file primarily for a connected physical injury, your odds for a successful claim go up. In fact, this is the only way that some states, like Alabama, will accept a mental health-related claim.

For example, anxiety or depression that you experience after a traumatic brain injury is more likely to qualify for workers’ comp because you (and the insurance) can draw a direct connection between your condition and a specific work incident.

2. Mental-mental workers’ comp claims

Winning workers’ comp benefits for mental-only claims is difficult, even in states that allow these claims. There is a high burden of proof on you to show that your condition is a result of your work. We recommend talking to a local workers’ compensation lawyer. They’ll have a better sense of how your situation compares to other successful claims in your area.


How to file a workers’ compensation claim for mental health

The basic process of filing a workers’ comp claim is the same no matter what condition you have, but there are some key steps you can take to increase your chances of success.

  1. Report your injury: Whether you’re filing for a physical injury or just a mental health claim, notify your employer as soon as you believe that your condition is work-related. This kicks off the filing process and you may only have a few days to report the injury, Missing your state’s deadline will mean missing out on benefits. We also recommend that you give this notice in writing.

  2. Make sure your employer files a claim: After you report an injury to your employer, they should start the filing process. You will likely receive a form that you need to fill out and return. If they refuse to file a claim, like if they don’t think you’ll qualify, talk to a workers’ comp lawyer.

  3. Get a diagnosis: Most states and workers’ comp insurance companies require a diagnosis from a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist. Therapists and counselors usually can’t formally diagnose mental health disorders.

  4. Collect evidence: In addition to a formal diagnosis, you’ll need to prove to the insurance company that your condition was a direct result of your job. Look for evidence of specific work events that contributed to your condition if possible. Work emails or statements from coworkers could help here. 

  5. Talk to a workers’ comp lawyer: Filing a successful mental health claim for workers’ comp is difficult. A local workers’ comp lawyer is trained in your state laws and will know what rights you have, how similar claims have won in the past, and how to increase your chances of success. Even if you don’t run into clear issues, a lawyer can help. An Atticus lawyer will also give a free consultation and charge nothing upfront if you sign on to work with them. Get connected to a lawyer near you today.

Get workers' comp help today.

How a lawyer can help with your workers’ comp claim

It’s worth repeating that the best way to increase your chances of a successful mental health claim is by talking to a lawyer.

A local workers’ comp lawyer will help you through every stage of the workers’ compensation process. They can guide you through necessary forms, get you a diagnosis from a medical professional they trust, and help you gather the evidence insurance will look for.

An experienced lawyer knows how to fight for your rights if you get pushback from your employer or if the insurance company denies your claim. They can also represent you in state court if you need to appeal a denial.

Atticus has local workers’ comp lawyers across the country. Fill out our 2-minute workers’ comp questionnaire and someone from our team will reach out to learn more about your situation. Talking to us is free and if you want to work with one of our lawyers, there’s no upfront cost. You only pay after you win benefits or get a settlement. And since the average payout with an Atticus lawyer is double what people get on their own, you’re still making money after paying the fee.


Common questions about workers’ comp and mental health

What mental health conditions qualify for workers’ comp?

Not all states provide workers’ comp for mental health conditions. The most commonly accepted condition is PTSD, but even that isn’t guaranteed. Your best bet for benefits is if your condition is linked to a physical work injury. Learn more about qualifying conditions.

Can I file for workers’ comp for mental stress?

In general, no. Any level of stress that could normally result from doing a job won’t qualify for workers’ comp benefits. If you can prove that you experienced “extraordinary or unusual work-related stress,” some states may cover your condition.

How much does workers’ comp pay for mental health?

Workers’ comp pays the same amount for all eligible claims — usually all medical bills plus weekly payments worth two-thirds of your average weekly wage. Find the payment rate for your state to see how much you could receive.

Are there states that don’t cover any mental health claims?

Unfortunately, Delaware and Montana don’t cover mental health injuries under their workers’ comp laws. A local attorney will be able to explain your options better. Here’s how to find a good workers’ compensation attorney.

Which states don’t cover mental-only workers’ comp claims?

Alabama, Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Montana, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming.

Which states only cover mental health if I have a physical injury?

The following 14 states only cover mental health claims if they're caused by a physical work injury: Alabama, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, New Hampshire, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wyoming.

Can federal employees get workers’ comp for mental health?

Yes. Federal employees, like post office workers, can qualify for workers’ comp with a mental health condition that leaves them unable to work. The Department of Labor handles all federal workers’ comp claims.

Find a local workers' comp lawyer

California

Connecticut

Georgia

Illinois

Kentucky

Maryland

Massachusetts

Michigan

New Jersey

New York

North Carolina

Ohio

Pennsylvania

South Carolina

Tennessee

Texas

Wisconsin


Related resources:

What Is Workers' Comp & How Does It Work?

A hand draw portrait of a smiling, helpful lawyer.
By Victoria Muñoz

What to Do if You're Injured at Work

A hand draw portrait of a smiling, helpful lawyer.
By Victoria Muñoz

See what you qualify for

How long ago did you get an injury or illness at work?

References

  1. 1.
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  5. 5.
  6. 6.
    Colo. Rev. Stat., §8-41-302 (LexisNexis).
  7. 7.
  8. 8.
  9. 9.
  10. Ga. Code Ann., §34-9-280 (LexisNexis 2023).
  11. Miss. Code Ann., §71-3-3 (LexisNexis).
  12. Preventing Psychiatric Injuries,” California Department of Industrial Relations, Division of Workers’ Compensation, accessed May 22, 2024, https://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/FORMS/PreventingPsychiatricInjuries.pdf.
A drawing of the lead workers' compensation lawyer for Atticus.

Victoria Muñoz

Lead Attorney

Victoria Muñoz is an attorney on Atticus’s Workers' Compensation team. She’s a licensed attorney, a graduate of Stanford Law School, and has counseled hundreds of people seeking workers' compensation. In her free time, she enjoys hiking and spending time with her pup.
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