Workers' Compensation

OK: Check Cashing Clerk Establishes PTSD Claim After Two Robberies

Along with a number of other states, Oklahoma generally bars recovery of workers’ compensation benefits associated with mental injuries that are “unaccompanied” by physical injury [see Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, §§ 56.04, 56.06; note, however, that following the enactment of recent “reform” legislation, the Oklahoma “mental-mental” recovery rule is even more restrictive, see 2013 OK S.B. 1062, Section 13].  Oklahoma also requires any permanent disability claim to be “supported by competent medical testimony,” [85 O.S. Supp. 2005 §17(A)(1)] and that generally this is in the form of testimony or reports from an IME or treating physician. Within that context, the state Supreme Court recently reversed a decision by the Court of Civil Appeals (“COCA”) which, in turn, had reversed an award of PTD benefits to a claimant for a head injury and psychological overlay for PTSD, depression and post-traumatic headaches as a result of robberies at her employer's check cashing premises.  Claimant testified that during the second robbery, she was hit in the head by a plastic cash drawer thrown by one of the robbers, that she suffered severe headaches thereafter, and that she became so distraught and depressed she could not return to work or seek other employment.  The employer contended she had never proved that a physical injury occurred, that her headaches existed before the robbery incident, and that no medical testimony had been offered to tie the alleged head injury to the PTSD.  The high court observed that claimant was not required to show a causal connection between the head injury and the PTSD, only that a physical injury accompanied her mental injury.  It observed further that in a report offered by one of the employer’s medical experts, the expert acknowledged that claimant had complained of headaches for several weeks following the robbery.  The court held that the order of the Workers' Compensation Court finding claimant was permanently totally disabled was, therefore, supported by competent evidence; the COCA decision must be reversed.

Reported by Thomas A. Robinson, J.D.

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See Valued Servs., L.L.C. v. Tregenza, 2013 Okla. LEXIS 109 (Oct. 1, 2013) [2013 Okla. LEXIS 109 (Oct. 1, 2013)]

See generally Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, § 56.06 [56.06]

Source: Larson’s Workers’ Compensation Law, the nation’s leading authority on workers’ compensation law.

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