Other states are following the Connecticut debate.
In Georgia, some workers' comp lawyers said they are curious to see whether a law change in Connecticut might start the ball rolling for change in their state. In Georgia, current state law allows workers' comp insurance carriers to provide an optional mental health counseling benefit, but the carrier can also deny mental injury claims.
As in Connecticut, Georgia does not allow for mental injury benefits if there is no physical injury connected to the event that caused it. "We need a revision of the law to allow for care for these" first responders, said Andrew Neuwelt, an attorney with Franks, Koenig and Neuwelt in Atlanta. "Connecticut's potential expansion of the law reflects a nationwide shift toward recognizing post-traumatic stress as a compensable injury."
In Wisconsin, attorneys said there were concerns in recent years that too many emotional injury claims were being made in workers' compensation cases. As a result, the Wisconsin Supreme Court recently set a new "extraordinary stress" standard for compensatory damages, meaning a mental injury is only a payable claim is it resulted from a situation that was from a far greater dimension that day-to-day stress.
Carolyn Kelly, an attorney at Suisman Shapiro in New London whose practice involves workers' compensation, said mental injuries are an important aspect of worker' compensation "and should not be overlooked."
Kelly explained that the law in Connecticut has gradually expanded workers' comp benefits over the years to allow for emotional trauma claims by police officers involved in deadly force situations, and more recently, by firefighters who see colleagues get killed.
"It makes sense that teachers and other workers also get this benefit," she said. "I've had clients who come in and are in breakdown situations at work because of pressure of a job. And there's no doubt the job itself has caused some type of emotional reaction. Employers should be responsible for the conditions they create or contribute to."
This article originally appeared in the Connecticut Law Tribune.