Calif. Mental Stress Claims Involving Disability Decrease

April 13, 2001
An analysis by the California Workers' Compensation Institute found that over a six-year period, psychiatric\r\ninjuries with no physical component accounted for less than 1 percent\r\nof all claims.

Claims for psychiatric injuries with no physical component, once the fastest growing disabling work injury in California, dwindled to a very small but consistent share of workers'' compensation claims closed after 1993, though payments on mental-mental stress claims involving permanent disability still averaged nearly $22,000, according to data from the California Workers'' Compensation Institute (CWCI).

Between the early 1980s and the early 1990s, the California workers'' compensation system saw an eight-fold increase in the number of claims for anxiety reactions and other mental disorders without any connection to physical or traumatic injury, commonly known as "mental-mental" stress claims.

By 1990, the state reported mental disorders accounted for 2.3 percent of all disabling work injuries.

Spurred by concern over the legitimacy of these claims and their rising frequency and cost, the state enacted a series of anti-fraud statutes and tightened compensability standards for psychiatric injuries and post-termination claims, said CWCI.

To measure the incidence and cost of mental-mental stress claims since enactment of these reforms, the Institute analyzed data on 1.7 million 1993-1998 closed claims from the Industry Claims Information System database.

The analysis found that over the six-year period, psychiatric injuries with no physical component accounted for less than 1 percent of all claims.

Furthermore, dispelling the notion that mental-mental stress claims usually result in lost-time, the analysis found 73 percent of the claims were medical-only cases, while only about one out of five resulted in permanent partial disability (PPD) award.

Nevertheless, measured as proportion PPD claims, these psychiatric injuries represented about 2.3 percent of all PPD claims closed between 1993 and 1998, according to CWCI data.

When the Institute took a closer look at the payment data from the closed 1993-98 mental-mental stress claims, it found that payments averaged $6,202 per claim, with insurers paying an average of $1,658 for the medical-only claims, and $21,710 for PPD claims.

Payment figures on PPD claims averaged over the six-year span were skewed to the low side, however, because the 1997 and 1998 claims were still relatively green, so few of the more complex and expensive PPD claims for those years had closed at the time the data were collected, according to CWCI.

The average payout on a mental-mental stress PPD claim was about two-thirds of the average for all PPD claims.

Payment distributions show the biggest difference was in the average amount paid for medical care, though average temporary disability, vocational rehabilitation and "other expense" payments were also lower.

The least significant difference was in the among of the permanent disability award, with mental-mental stress claims averaging $9,580 versus $10,416 for all claims.

As a result, the study found permanent disability consumes 44 cents out of every dollar paid on mental-mental stress claim compared to 35 cents for all PPD claims.

by Virginia Sutcliffe

About the Author

EHS Today Staff

EHS Today's editorial staff includes:

Dave Blanchard, Editor-in-Chief: During his career Dave has led the editorial management of many of Endeavor Business Media's best-known brands, including IndustryWeekEHS Today, Material Handling & LogisticsLogistics Today, Supply Chain Technology News, and Business Finance. In addition, he serves as senior content director of the annual Safety Leadership Conference. With over 30 years of B2B media experience, Dave literally wrote the book on supply chain management, Supply Chain Management Best Practices (John Wiley & Sons, 2021), which has been translated into several languages and is currently in its third edition. He is a frequent speaker and moderator at major trade shows and conferences, and has won numerous awards for writing and editing. He is a voting member of the jury of the Logistics Hall of Fame, and is a graduate of Northern Illinois University.

Adrienne Selko, Senior Editor: In addition to her roles with EHS Today and the Safety Leadership Conference, Adrienne is also a senior editor at IndustryWeek and has written about many topics, with her current focus on workforce development strategies. She is also a senior editor at Material Handling & Logistics. Previously she was in corporate communications at a medical manufacturing company as well as a large regional bank. She is the author of Do I Have to Wear Garlic Around My Neck?, which made the Cleveland Plain Dealer's best sellers list.

Nicole Stempak, Managing Editor:  Nicole Stempak is managing editor of EHS Today and conference content manager of the Safety Leadership Conference.

Sponsored Recommendations

Free Webinar: ISO 45001 – A Commitment to Occupational Health, Safety & Personal Wellness

May 30, 2024
Secure a safer and more productive workplace using proven Management Systems ISO 45001 and ISO 45003.

ISO 45003 – Psychological Health and Safety at Work

May 30, 2024
ISO 45003 offers a comprehensive framework to expand your existing occupational health and safety program, helping you mitigate psychosocial risks and promote overall employee...

DH Pace, national door and dock provider, reduces TRIR and claims with EHS solution

May 29, 2024
Find out how DH Pace moved from paper/email/excel to an EHS platform, changing their culture. They reduced TRIR from 4.8 to 1.46 and improved their ability to bid on and win contracts...

Case Study: Improve TRIR from 4+ to 1 with EHS Solution and Safety Training

May 29, 2024
Safety training and EHS solutions improve TRIR for Complete Mechanical Services, leading to increased business. Moving incidents, training, and other EHS procedures into the digital...

Voice your opinion!

To join the conversation, and become an exclusive member of EHS Today, create an account today!