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Arizona Supreme Court Clarifies Legal Standard for Workers’ Compensation and Mental Health Injuries

According to reporting from Business Insurance, the Arizona Supreme Court has issued a key decision clarifying the state’s legal standard for workers’ compensation and mental health injuries. In ruling against a Tucson police officer, the state’s highest court determined that mental health injuries without a corresponding physical impairment are only compensable in the narrow circumstances in which an employee was subject to unusual, unexpected, or otherwise extraordinary stress on the job.  Within this article, our workers’ compensation attorney in Phoenix provides an overview of the case and explains the implications of the court’s decision. 


Workers’ Comp Case Analysis: Timothy Matthews v. ICA, City of Tucson, Tristar 


The Background & Facts


The worker (Mr. Matthews) served as a police officer with the Tucson Police Department from 2000 to 2018. Beginning in 2009, Mr. Matthews began to receive professional medical treatment for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) related to his employment. In 2018, he responded to a disturbing domestic violence incident in which the suspect eventually committed suicide. Shortly after, he reported serious adverse medical health effects related to PTSD. He filed for workers’ compensation benefits. However, the claim was denied by an insurance company and, eventually, a judge. 


The Court’s Decision


Arizona allows workers to file for workers’ compensation benefits for job-related mental health impairments, including PTSD. However, the law limits workers’ comp benefits for mental health conditions strictly to cases in which: 


  • The mental health condition was work related; and
  • The impairment was caused by unexpected, unusual, or extraordinary circumstances. 


The Arizona Supreme Court was tasked with determining what constitutes an unexpected, unusual, or extraordinary situation. In ruling against the police officer, Arizona’s highest court assessed that the hostage situation in question in this case does not meet the standard of unexpected, unusual, or extraordinary for a police officer. 


The Implications for Injured Workers


The ruling from the Arizona Supreme Court has important implications for workers who have sustained PTSD or another mental health condition due to their job. It is a relatively high burden to meet to prove that the job-related mental health issue was caused by an unexpected, unusual, or  extraordinarily stressful event. It is imperative that any worker in Phoenix seeking SSD benefits for mental health impairment is prepared to present a strong, compelling, and well-supported case demonstrating how they were subject to unusual or extraordinary circumstances at work. 


The Bottom Line: You have the right to file for workers’ comp benefits for a job-related mental health injury in Arizona. However, state law requires an applicant to demonstrate that “unexpected, unusual or extraordinary stress” related to their job contributed to the mental health impairment. 


Schedule a Free Consultation With a Workers’ Compensation in Phoenix

At Snow, Carpio and Weekley, PLC, our Phoenix workers’ comp lawyers fight aggressively to protect the rights of injured workers. If you have any questions about PTSD work injury claims, we can help. Contact us now to arrange your free, no strings attached initial consultation. We represent injured workers in Phoenix, Maricopa County, and throughout all of Arizona. 

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