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Employers (their insurance carriers) must pay compensation for their employees’ injuries and occupational diseases arising from and in the course of their work activities. This includes physical and psychological injuries, which are compensable if related to and caused by a work-related physical injury.  Matlock v. Industrial Comm’n, 321 Ill. App. 3d 167, 171 (2001).   


Even minor physical contact or injury may be sufficient to trigger compensability in such “physical-mental” cases.  Chicago Park District v. Industrial Comm’n, 263 Ill. App. 3d 835, 842 (1994).   


Under the "physical-mental" theory, work-related physical trauma need not be the sole causative factor but need only be a causative factor of the subsequent mental condition. City of Springfield v. Industrial Comm’n, 291 Ill. App. 3d 734, 738 (1997).   


Mental disorders that develop over time in the normal course of employment are not compensable.  Matlock, 321 Ill. App. 3d at 171. 


Example #1. The disabling psychological condition is causally not related to a work accident. 

  • The claimant did not seek treatment for depression for about a year after his knee injury at work. 

  • An expert testified that the claimant developed mental illness about 1 year later and that was unrelated to his knee injury. 

  • Medical records reflected no severe psychological symptoms (depression, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, losing significant weight) for more than 10 months after his injury.  

  • The expert testified that “psychiatric symptoms are considered causally related to a stressor only if the symptoms manifest themselves within three months of the onset of the stressor.” 

  • Medical records and the testimony of the claimant’s wife and daughter showed that claimant was anxious and agitated immediately after the work accident, but he did not experience any clinically significant symptoms that required treatment until 10 to 11 months after the accident. Szeliga v. IWCC, 2012 IL App (1st) 110369WC-U. 

Example #2. A causal connection exists between the mental injury and work accident. 

  • Five (5) days after the altercation with an airline passenger, the claimant visited expert psychologist (whom she visited two times prior in recent years for depression) and was diagnosed with emotional trauma (post-traumatic stress disorder) causally related to the subject incident and unrelated to her previous treatments. 

  • An opposing expert testified that the emotional trauma was not related to the subject incident.  

  • The Claimant proved that she was physically and mentally injured at work. Matlock v. Industrial Comm’n, 321 Ill. App. 3d 167 (2001). 


Example #3. A causal connection between mental injury to work accident was proved. 

  • After a chain hoist (125lbs) fell on the Claimant working as a pipefitter, his two toes were amputated. 

  • The claimant returned to work but began shaking, sweating, and feeling nauseous. 

  • The claimant saw a psychiatrist and was cleared to return to work. 

  • Claimant continued to experience psychiatric problems and saw another expert who testified that the problems were causally connected to the work-related physical incident. 

  • Opposing expert testified that the claimant had such problems in the past. Thomas J. Douglass & Co. v. Industrial Comm’n, 35 Ill.2d 100 (Ill., 1966). 


Example #4. A causal connection did exist.  

  • The claimant was forced to have sexual intercourse with her supervisor for a year. 

  • After hearing of another victim coming forward against the same supervisor, she reported her incidents. 

  • Thereafter, she became emotional, could not sleep, and was afraid to be at work, especially after this became public in the workplace. 

  • She saw an expert after attempting suicide and was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder due to the sexual harassment and assaults at work. 

  • Another psychiatrist diagnosed her with adjustment disorder with depressed mood, and with major depression. City of Springfield v. Industrial Comm’n, 291 Ill. App. 3d 734, 738 (1997). 


The above examples illustrate elements of proof of a mental injury causal connection to a physical work-related injury by the injured worker’s symptoms presentment to and prompt treatment by a psychiatrist or psychologist, as well as family and expert testimonies.   

© 2023, Parad Law Offices, P.C

Disclaimer: The publisher and the author give no legal or other professional advice by this publication and disclaim any liability, loss or damages, which may arise from the use of the information stated herein. No attorney-client relationship shall be established by this publication.

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