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3 years after traumatic incident, employee gets workers comp

When most people think of workers' compensation claims, they picture a fall off a ladder, a back injury from lifting a heavy object or some type of horrible maiming. However, West Virginia's Supreme Court recently ruled, after years of dispute at lower levels, that a United Parcel Service driver who was hijacked and subsequently suffered post-traumatic stress disorder was eligible to receive workers' compensation.

The incident occurred in Aug. 2010 in Elizabeth. A man forced the driver at gunpoint to take him in the direction of a state police station. During the incident, the hijacker fired his rifle twice near the driver and threatened to kill him. As they were driving towards the police station, the hijacker made the UPS driver pull over when he saw a parked police car. At that point, the driver was able to get away from the hijacker, who was eventually killed by police. It was not reported what the gunman's motives had been.

Following the incident, the driver was diagnosed by a therapist with PTSD. He was suffering from depression, insomnia, nightmares and agitation. However, when he filed a claim for workers' compensation, he was denied because his was considered a "psychiatric injury."

The driver has been fighting to get workers' compensation since then. He appealed to the Office of Judges, which sided with the claims administrator's decision. The case then went to the Board of Review, which determined that he was indeed entitled to compensation because of the "physical nature of the incident." The board ruled that he had suffered personal injury.

UPS appealed that decision to the Supreme Court, which ruled unanimously that the Board of Review had made the correct determination. The high court ruling cited the "demonstrable physical symptoms" suffered by the driver after the hijacking.

This case is an excellent example of how there are all kinds of workplace injuries. Just as a worker who had a roof fall in on him would need to get treatment to help recover, so does someone who suffers a traumatizing, potentially violent encounter on the job. Just because a claims administrator denies a workers' compensation claim, that doesn't mean it's not perfectly valid. A personal injury attorney may be able to help someone who has suffered an injury on the job get the benefits to which they are entitled.

Source:  West Virginia Record, "Workers' Comp will cover hijacked UPS driver with PTSD" John O'Brien, Nov. 26, 2013

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