Witnessing a Death in the Workplace - Workers Compensation Legal Blogs Posted by Larry Pitt - Lawyers.com

Witnessing a Death in the Workplace

A co-worker dying on the job can be a traumatic experience that often causes mental stress injuries among employees. Much depends on the circumstances surrounding the death. Probably the worst-case scenario is an act of violence in the workplace, the incidence of which has tragically increased in recent years. Witnessing a co-worker become injured in a gruesome accident may have long-lasting psychological repercussions. A situation where an employee dies suddenly from a cardiovascular or similar incident is also devastating.

PTSD
Experiencing the death of a colleague is traumatizing and may lead to conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. When workplace violence is involved, PTSD is even more likely to affect survivors. While it is normal for employees to feel depressed or fearful for a certain time after a workplace death, some individuals find the event overwhelming and the passage of time is not healing. Symptoms of PTSD include:

Severe anxiety
Flashbacks to the triggering event
Racing heart
Panic attacks
Nightmares
Loss of interest in life
Emotional numbness
Those dealing with mental stress after a death in the workplace may find it impossible to return to the death scene. Some may feel they are losing their minds, as the tragedy replays over and over. Affected workers may consider suicide.

Workers’ Compensation and PTSD
While it is possible to receive workers’ compensation benefits for psychological issues related to work, it is more difficult to prove the mental stress is job-related than that of a physical injury. However, when there is great evidence that a co-worker’s death affected a person, workers’ compensation may approve the claim. First responders such as police and firefighters might witness the death of a co-worker and dear friend, or perhaps the deceased person had saved the life of the first responder in the incident. Acts of workplace violence and the subsequent chaos following may bolster a PTSD claim.

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Larry Pitt

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Licensed since 1977

Member at firm Larry Pitt & Associates, P.C.

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