Occupational stress is typically ongoing and develops when workers are unable to cope with the demands of their job. Stress can result when workers are unable to carry out the normal responsibilities of the job.
It can also result from the employee feeling that they no longer having any control over their work environment (i.e. being moved to a noisy area in the office, reporting to a new supervisor or dealing with changes in work policies).
In addition, stress can develop when the work environment is aggravated by harassment in the workplace or other unhealthy working conditions.
Even a person who normally thrives in high-demand and high-pressure jobs can develop stress related symptoms as a result of these aggravating factors. These symptoms are varied, and may include lack of motivation, feeling burned out, or a sudden inability to complete simple work tasks.
What Types of Injuries Result from Occupational Stress?
Everyone will feel stress on the job at some time during their employment, but not everyone develops the kind of occupational stress related health effects that can affect their ability to work.
The degree to which you develop health conditions depends on your ability to tolerate and cope with stress. It will also depend on the type of conditions at work that are causing your stress. You can develop the effects of stress, for instance, if you have experienced exposure to toxic substances at work such as mold or chemicals.
While many people associate stress as being only mental (often claiming it as “pain and suffering”), workers can show the physical effects of stress as well. It isn’t unusual for workers to develop physical conditions such as increased blood pressure and joint pain. You also may develop ulcers, headaches, insomnia, anxiety or depression.
Can I File a Claim for My Occupational Stress?
If you suffer from mental or physical injuries that you can attribute to your workplace stress, you may be able to file a civil claim for damages. It is important to be able to differentiate normal stress from the type of increased stress that would support your claim. Also, your claims should involve only stress related to your job and not other stressors, such as a divorce or loss of a house.
What Should I Do to Increase My Chance of Recovery?
It is important to document the facts leading up to your development of stress related health conditions. For example, you should record facts or be prepared to show:
- Changes in your work condition, workload or work responsibilities;
- Changes in your health condition that were not pre-existing; or
- Impact of mental or physical injuries on your ability to do your work
What Will I Need to Establish to Succeed on My Claim for Damages?
The elements you will need to establish will depend on the nature of your specific claims. However, your ability to show the following will be helpful in establishing your claims:
- Your reaction to the injury-inducing stress was reasonable;
- The stress was sufficient to create your injury and was the cause of your injury ;
- You informed your employer about the unhealthy work conditions; and
- The employer failed to take appropriate steps to remedy the unhealthy work conditions
The court will then consider whether the employer failed to take the appropriate steps to remedy the unhealthy condition. It will look at your medical records and other documents related to your alleged injuries, as well as any record of prior complaints from other employees.
What Types of Damages for My Occupational Stress Can I Claim?
You can claim a variety of damages depending on the type of claims you assert in your civil lawsuit. Damages may cover your medical expenses (doctor, hospital, pharmacy, therapy, etc.), lost wages, future income, and lost earning capacity, among other costs and expenses.
You also may be allowed future monitoring costs when your case involves increased risk of developing a future disease. This type of damage happens commonly in toxic exposure cases. The court will assess your proof showing an increased risk of developing some disease or illness in the future.
You also may be able to make a workers compensation claim. However, keep in mind that states may preclude you from suing your employer in court if you claim workers compensation benefits.
They may also require that you pursue workers compensation in lieu of suing your employer. Workers compensation may be less comprehensive than damages you may be allowed in a civil lawsuit and may limit the amount of workers compensation you receive.
Should I Consult with a Lawyer About Occupational Stress Damages?
If you are suffering from the mental or physical effects of occupational stress, you may be entitled to recover damages. The nature of the claims you can assert and the damages you can recover will depend on the specific facts of your case. Consult with an employment lawyer to help you determine your right to recover from your employer for your occupational stress.