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The Top 10 List of things I’d like to see changed in the Workers’ Compensation law (Continued)

By Tracy W. Cary, Alabama Workers' Compensation Attorney

In a previous blog, I listed Number 10, The table of scheduled members, which is a rather bizarre list of 34 body parts or combinations of body parts found in Ala. Code § 25-5-57(a)(3) with a corresponding number of weeks a worker may be compensated if he is unfortunate enough to be injured while at work.

Number 9: No recovery for psychological injuries

The Act provides that workers get no workers’ compensation benefits if their work produces a mental disorder or injury. This is because Ala. Code § 25-5-1(9) limits the definition of an “injury” for the purposes of the workers’ compensation law such that it does not include a mental disorder or mental injury that has neither been produced nor been proximately caused by some physical injury to the body. In other words, under Alabama law, for an employee to recover for psychological disorders, the employee must have suffered a physical injury to the body and that physical injury must be a proximate cause of the psychological disorders. Ex parte Vongsouvahn, 795 So. 2d 625 (Ala. 2000). Without claiming to have any expertise in psychology, it seems that some, if not many psychological problems would not have a physical cause. If a particular high-stress occupation was the clear cause of a psychological injury, then in the interest of fairness, the Act should permit recovery for the injury. In order to allay concerns that allowing such a recovery would turn Alabama into California which has the nation’s highest workers’ compensation premiums, a strict standard of proof could be applied before such recovery could be permitted.