Can Traumatic Work Injuries Cause Depression?
October 30, 2021
After a traumatic work accident, employees often need long-term medical care and physical therapy. Depending on the severity of the injury, they may face health problems that linger for a lifetime.
Serious work injuries may also result in depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), or other mental conditions. These conditions are more than just a general feeling of sadness, and they often prevent individuals from resuming normal activities, including a return to the workforce.
Although these complications constitute real disabilities that result in financial loss, they may be dismissed and considered non-compensable. Recovering damages in these cases requires proving the relationship between the traumatic work injury and the individual’s development of depression or other mental disability.
What Constitutes Depression?
According to the American Psychiatric Association (APA), depression is a serious mental illness that lasts for at least two weeks, disrupting an individual’s ability to function at work or at home. Continued depression can lead to a variety of emotional and physical problems.
Although sadness is one aspect of this condition, depression is much more than just feeling sad. Symptoms of depression include but are not limited to the following:
- Difficulty sleeping or sleeping too much
- Changes in appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
- Speech problems
- Feelings of worthlessness
- Suicidal thoughts
Some individuals diagnosed with major depression also experience joint pain, limb pain, back pain, and gastrointestinal problems.
Depression affects about one in every 15 adults in the U.S., according to the APA. There are many factors, which may make an individual more likely to develop depression. A serious illness or trauma, including injuries caused by a devastating work accident, may also result in depression.
What Types of Work Injuries May Trigger Depression?
Many types of work injuries may trigger depression, including traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), severe fractures, crush injuries, and any type of injury that results in severe and chronic pain.
One reason why a traumatic work injury may trigger depression is that physical pain and depression have a deep biological connection. Serotonin and norepinephrine, two important neurotransmitters in the brain, influence both pain and mood. Due to this connection, individuals who are subject to painful injury are more susceptible to experiencing debilitating depression.
How Common Is Depression Among Head Injury Patients?
Head injuries remain an under-recognized cause of depression. Several studies estimate that as many as one-quarter of all people who experience a TBI will develop major depressive disorder. Tragically, suicide is a leading cause of death among patients with a TBI, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Workers who experience a head injury on the job often are not aware about the severity of the injury. That is because many brain injuries do not result in recognizable physical problems right away. Concussions and other closed-head injuries may seem to be invisible because the injured worker does not have a bleeding wound or other visible signs of harm.
Workers who may have hit their head in an accident on the job should seek immediate medical attention for possible concussion, even if there is no outward visible sign of injury. The sooner injured workers are examined, the sooner their treatment can begin, helping them avoid or minimize long-term complications. It is also very important for injured workers to go to their follow-up appointments to document complications that may develop later.
Is There a Link Between PTSD and Depression?
Individuals who experience or witness a serious accident or other disturbing event may develop PTSD, a serious mental illness. Research suggests that there is a link between PTSD and depression, as about half of the individuals diagnosed with PTSD also develop major depressive disorder (MDD).
PTSD symptoms usually appear several weeks or months after the disturbing event. These symptoms include but are not limited to the following:
- Flashbacks of the event
- Mood swings and negative thoughts
- Avoiding anything that is a reminder of the event
- Emotional outbursts
PTSD patients may also experience sleep disturbance as well. It is important for workers who have been involved in tragic accidents to be on the alert for symptoms of PTSD or depression, and they should seek a diagnosis from a medical doctor as soon as they are aware they may have either one of these conditions.
Why Should Injured Workers Seek to Recover Damages for Depression or PTSD?
Many injured workers need long-term medical care and rehabilitative treatment after a serious work accident. If they are eventually able to return to work, they may first need a lot of time off to recover. Injured workers should seek to recover damages for depression and/or PTSD in order to pay for necessary treatment and compensate for lost wages.
It is a mistake to think that conditions such as PTSD or depression will go away on their own or that treatment will not help. According to the APA, most people who receive professional treatment for depression eventually report improvement in their condition. However, treatment typically lasts six months or more, and it can be expensive. That is why it is so important for injured workers to seek full recovery of damages so they can pay for the treatment they need to begin rebuilding their future.
How Can a Lawyer Help Injured Workers Who Have Depression or PTSD?
An experienced Workers’ Compensation lawyer can help injured employees who have depression or PTSD obtain the funds they need for medical treatment by proving the relationship between their work injury and the development of the mental condition. A lawyer can help injured workers with the difficult task of quantifying the full scope of how their quality of life has changed after their accident. This is a legal challenge that is best tackled by lawyers who have successfully handled these types of Workers’ Compensation cases before.
An experienced lawyer will start by examining details about the work accident, all relevant medical records, past and present, and make comparisons of the worker’s qualify of life before and after the accident. This includes the worker’s ability to return to their occupation, as well as how family and home life have been altered.
Our lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP have successfully handled a number of cases involving injured workers who have experienced PTSD, depression, and other debilitating mental and emotional complications after a traumatic accident, including the following:
- Worker develops depression after his torso was crushed in a work accident. Our client was a 50-year-old laborer whose entire abdomen was crushed by an industrial machine. He developed depression, anxiety, and (PTSD) as a result. Our lawyers resolved the matter for $270,000 plus payment for ongoing medical care.
- Worker develops PTSD after crushing accident. Our client was a 48-year-old temporary laborer left who was alone with a cold core box and told by his supervisor to keep the machine running. He slipped and fell, and his right wrist was crushed in the clamping area of the cold core box. After enduring multiple surgeries and nerve damage, he developed reflex sympathetic dystrophy and PTSD. Our lawyers obtained a $298,000 settlement by proving that the cold core box machine was defective as designed.
It is important to note that injured workers may seem hesitant to contact a lawyer either because they think the accident was their fault or that they should be able to handle their injuries on their own. If you have been injured at work, do not hesitate to reach out to our legal team at Galfand Berger LLP. We are here to protect your rights, and we have been helping injured workers for more than 70 years.
Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP Have Been Champions for Injured Workers Since 1947
Many times, injured workers are unaware of their rights and potential benefits. Our Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyers at Galfand Berger LLP can help you if you have developed depression because of a traumatic workplace accident. Contact us online or call us at 800-222-USWA (8792) to schedule a free consultation. Located in Philadelphia, Bethlehem, Lancaster, and Reading Pennsylvania, we serve clients throughout New Jersey and Pennsylvania, including Allentown and Harrisburg.