Oklahoma workers' compensation laws differ for psychological injuries

Charlie Plumb, a labor and employment attorney with McAfee & Taft, discusses a recent workers' comp case involving a firefighter and post traumatic stress.
by Paula Burkes Published: January 22, 2013

Q: Has this been tested in the courts recently?

A: Yes. Earlier this month, in city of Norman v. Helm, the Oklahoma Court of Civil Appeals overturned a Workers' Compensation Court's ruling that a firefighter was entitled to benefits for emotional and psychological injuries — namely, PTSD and depression — he sustained after responding to a particularly horrific emergency scene. According to the firefighter's doctor and the Workers' Compensation Court, the PTSD caused chemical changes in the man's brain and body, and those changes amounted to “physical injury to the brain.”

The city of Norman appealed. While not contesting the fact that the injured employee suffered from PTSD and depression, they did argue that the firefighter's condition was not compensable under Oklahoma law because they were only psychological injuries. Based on the statutory definition and a previous Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling on a case with similar facts, the appeals court agreed and ruled in the city's favor.


by Paula Burkes
A 1981 journalism graduate of Oklahoma State University, Paula Burkes has more than 30 years experience writing and editing award-winning material for newspapers and healthcare, educational and telecommunications institutions in Tulsa, Oklahoma...
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