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Court in New Jersey rejects workers' compensation stress claim

Employed individuals may be interested to know of a recent decision made by a New Jersey court. A former employee of a bank brought a claim regarding workers' compensation disability benefits. She asserted that she was suffering from a psychological illness in connection with her employment. This was eventually struck down by the court.

In the end, the court supported their decision by stating that the evidence provided by the former employee did not fulfill the requirements. To prevail, she would have had to prove that "objectively verified work stressors" contributed to her disability. She would also have to prove that these work stressors were a "material cause" of her illness. According to the court, she failed to fulfill this burden of proof.

The petitioner stated that while she worked as a bank teller, her supervisor made her job incredibly stressful by giving her an impossible amount of work and screaming at her constantly. She believes these actions made her job incredibly stressful, so stressful that a psychiatric claim was permissible.

According to the petitioner, she had received a number of fairly positive annual work reports through the years. Later, however, she was given a negative review. Soon after, she left her place of employment.

After this incident, she filed for the disability benefits discussed in the claim. She asserts that her mother's deteriorating health did not play a role in her decision to quit; instead, she contends the psychiatric stress caused by her supervisor was to blame. She also offered three witnesses at trial who supported this story.

Unfortunately, the court felt her witnesses told inconsistent accounts of what took place. Much of their testimony even contradicted her story.

In the end, the court felt she simply did not fulfill her burden, as she did not offer medical evidence supporting the notion that "objectively stressful work conditions" led to her psychiatric troubles. Therefore, her workers' compensation psychiatric claim was struck down.

Source: Insurance Journal, "N.J. Court Rules on Workers' Compensation Occupational Stress Claim," July 2, 2012

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