Last Updated: 5/2/2024

Workers' compensation claims often focus on physical injuries incurred on the job. However, psychological injuries, such as work-related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), are garnering increased recognition in the realm of occupational health and safety. Understanding and addressing work-related PTSD is crucial for both employees and employers, as it affects personal well-being and overall workplace productivity.

What Is Work-Related PTSD?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a mental health condition triggered by experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. While it's often associated with military service, PTSD can result from a variety of work-related incidents, including violent attacks, accidents, or any situation that leaves an employee feeling extremely threatened or terrified.

Work-related PTSD can have a profound impact on an individual's ability to function both in the workplace and in their personal life. Understanding that PTSD is not limited to combat-related scenarios is key to acknowledging and validating the experiences of those suffering from it in the workplace.

Recognizing the Signs of Work-Related PTSD

The symptoms of work-related PTSD can be broken down into several categories:

  • Re-experiencing symptoms: These include flashbacks, nightmares, and severe anxiety, as well as uncontrollable thoughts about the traumatic event.
  • Avoidance symptoms: Efforts to avoid thinking or talking about the traumatic event or avoiding people, places, and activities that are reminders of the trauma.
  • Arousal and reactivity symptoms: These may present as being easily startled, feeling tense or "on edge," having difficulty sleeping, or having angry outbursts.
  • Cognition and mood symptoms: Difficulty remembering key features of the traumatic event, negative thoughts about oneself or the world, distorted feelings like guilt or blame, and loss of interest in enjoyable activities.

It's important to note that symptoms may vary in intensity over time and can be triggered by stress or reminders of the traumatic event.

The Legal Framework for Workers' Compensation and PTSD

Workers' compensation laws are designed to provide financial and medical benefits to employees injured or become ill as a direct result of their job. Traditionally, these laws have centered on physical injuries, but as our understanding of psychological trauma has evolved, so too have the laws surrounding workers' compensation.

In Iowa, as in many other states, the workers' compensation system has broadened to include psychological conditions like PTSD. However, proving that PTSD is work-related can be more challenging than demonstrating a physical injury.

Iowa Workers' Comp and Psychological Injuries

Iowa workers' comp laws stipulate that to be eligible for compensation, the injury must arise out of and in the course of employment. For PTSD claims, this means that the traumatic event causing the condition must be tied to the worker's job duties or workplace.

The challenge with work-related PTSD claims is that psychological injuries are not as easily observed or measured as physical injuries. Therefore, it's imperative to have clear, detailed documentation and expert testimony to establish the link between the workplace incident and PTSD symptoms.

Steps to Take When Filing a PTSD Workers' Compensation Claim in Iowa

If you believe you are suffering from work-related PTSD, there are specific steps you should take to file a claim for workers' compensation benefits in Iowa.

Seek Medical Attention

First and foremost, seek medical attention. A healthcare professional can diagnose PTSD and recommend a course of treatment. This medical record will be a key component of your workers' compensation claim.

Report the Incident

Report the traumatic event to your employer as soon as possible. Follow your employer's procedures for reporting work-related injuries or incidents. This report will serve as official documentation that the event occurred.

Document Everything

Keep a detailed record of the incident, your symptoms, and how they're affecting your daily life. Document any time taken off work, any medical appointments, treatments, and how the PTSD affects your ability to perform your job.

Consult with a Workers' Compensation Attorney

Consider consulting with an attorney who specializes in workers' compensation claims. They can provide valuable guidance through the complexities of the claim process and help ensure that you have the necessary documentation to support your case.

Treatment and Support for Work-Related PTSD

Therapy sessionby Anthony Tran (

Effective treatment for PTSD often includes therapy, medication, or a combination of both. Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) is one of the most effective forms of treatment for PTSD. Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) is another therapy that has been shown to help people recover from PTSD.

Support from family, friends, and co-workers is also crucial for recovery. Employers can foster a supportive work environment by offering access to employee assistance programs, providing mental health days, and creating a culture where mental health is not stigmatized.

Preventing Work-Related PTSD

Prevention is always better than cure. Employers can take proactive steps to reduce the likelihood of work-related PTSD.

Foster a Safe Work Environment

Maintain a safe work environment by adhering to safety protocols and offering regular training to employees. Ensuring that employees feel safe at work can help reduce the risk of traumatic incidents.

Provide Adequate Training

Train employees on how to handle potentially traumatic situations they may encounter in their roles. This includes de-escalation techniques, emergency response training, and providing resources for coping with stress.

Encourage Open Communication

Create an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable discussing their concerns and mental health issues without fear of stigma or retribution.

Educational Resources and Support

Educating oneself about PTSD, its symptoms, and available treatments is essential for individuals and their families. Seeking help from qualified mental health professionals and utilizing resources like the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can provide crucial support during challenging times.

If you or a loved one is struggling with work-related PTSD in Iowa, seeking assistance from a knowledgeable Workers’ Compensation attorney can help you understand your rights and pursue fair compensation. Our team of lawyers will fight on your behalf for medical and disability benefits so you can get your life back on track.

We can also appeal the decision if your claim is denied. Be sure to take a look at our free book, Iowa Workers’ Compensation – An Insider’s Guide to Work Injures: 7 Deadly Mistakes, and call 641-792-3595 to schedule a free consultation.

Corey Walker
Connect with me
With over 28 years legal experience, Corey has been recognized for his work as an injury attorney.