One of the most difficult workers’ comp cases is the “mental-mental” case, in which an injured worker sustains psychological injuries as a result of non-physical work-related factors, as discussed in a prior post (“Mental-Mental Injuries“).
A recently decided Illinois case provides another interesting—and horrific—example of such a psychological injury:
In the case of Michael Shea v. RPRD Dychman, Inc.:
- Mr. Shea worked as a cross country truck driver.
- On October 2, 2010, during a trip between St. Louis and Champaign, he witnessed the scene after an accident in which an automobile driver was killed.
- He testified that he saw the body of a man lying on the road with part of his skull missing, and the man “was obviously dead.”
- This lead to shock, horror, feeling sick, problems sleeping, and difficulty with concentration and mood.
- In May 2011, Mr. Shea sought treatment by a psychologist. He was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
- He hired a workers’ comp attorney, who filed the claim on May 27, 2011.
The arbitatror denied benefits, with justification being that Mr. Shea failed to prove a work-related mental-mental injury. At the next level, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission affirmed the decision of the arbitrator. At this point, things were not looking good for Mr. Shea. Finally, his fortunes turned, and his attorney brought it to the Circuit Court, who reversed it, and remanded to the Commission for an award.
In the end, on August 24, 2015, the Commission awarded:
- 5 % loss of the person as a whole, equal to a permanent partial disability award of 25 weeks.
- 34 and 5/8 weeks of temporary total disability (TTD).
However, the Commission denied Mr. Shea’s request for a wage differential award or benefits. The reasons for this denial included the fact that he did not provide evidence of a vigorous job search, and his vocational rehabilitation counselor’s testimony was flawed because the vocational counselor did not ascribe any value to Mr. Shea’s experience in the military, as a mechanic, or his three years of higher education.
This case is another example of how a psychological or “mental-mental” Illinois workers’ compensation case can be won, despite how extremely difficult it can be to prove. With the help of a workers’ compensation attorney, Mr. Shea finally won his award over four years after the case was filed, and almost five years after his injury. Without an attorney, it would have been nearly impossible for him to take his case all the way to the Circuit Court on his own. In the end, he won something—apart from the wage differential failure—for a very difficult psychological work injury case.