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  • Florida Appellate Court Reverses Lower Court’s Order Denying PTSD-Based Workers’ Compensation Claim

Florida Appellate Court Reverses Lower Court’s Order Denying PTSD-Based Workers’ Compensation Claim

In Sierra v. Metropolitan Protective Services, a Florida security patrol worker suffered injuries from an attack involving the use of a knife. The injured security guard received treatment at a local emergency room and was referred to other medical professionals for follow-up treatment and care, including a psychiatrist. The worker also filed a workers’ compensation claim, which the employer accepted. After a one-week period following the event, the security guard returned to work.

Shortly after returning to work, the security guard requested a transfer to another location. During the next several months, the security guard was involved in two separate car collisions that did not have any relation to his work duties. The first collision was deemed minor, but the security guard sustained serious injuries to his shoulder during the second accident when a motor vehicle crashed into the scooter that he was riding, requiring surgery and hospital time. The security guard did not resume his job duties following the second accident. 

Roughly one month after the man received surgery for his shoulder injury, he filed a workers’s compensation claim seeking benefits and medical care. The employer permitted the man to make several psychiatry and orthopedic appointments, in addition to receiving treatment for anxiety and depression. In his claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the security guard alleged that his ailments were the result of the attack involving the knife and that the second collision exacerbated his condition. Prior to beginning the psychiatric treatment provided through workers’ compensation, however, the security guard indicated that he had a history of psychological-related problems for which he had sought non-authorized psychological treatment in the past.

During the authorized treatment, the security guard’s psychiatrist diagnosed him as suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”). Despite the doctor’s recommendation that the security guard receive weekly treatment, he did not make any further appointments. Another physician also discovered during this time that the security guard had reached the maximum medical improvement level for the injuries he sustained during the knife assault, and he indicated that the security guard had no further impairments stemming from this incident.

The worker then requested authorization for additional psychological treatment, in addition to compensation for his legal fees. The employer ultimately denied the worker’s claim for additional psychological treatment, alleging that the two car collisions broke the causal chain required pursuant to Florida Statute Section 440.09. The company offered expert witness testimony from an independent medical examiner, who testified that the knife assault was only 25 percent responsible for the worker’s need for psychological treatment.

In response, the security guard contended that the employer was raising the issue of causation far too late in the process and objected to the medical examiner’s testimony. At the hearing, the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) assigned to the case overruled the security guard’s objections and later issued a decision denying all of the security guard’s requests, including legal fees.

The security guard appealed to the Second District Court of Appeals, claiming that the JCC erred by denying his request for legal fees, rejecting his objections to the medical examiner’s evidence, and ruling that the employer had not waived the right to refuse compensability for the claims associated with his PTSD.

The court reversed the JCC’s ruling, finding that the JCC provided insufficient support for his decision to deny the security guard’s request for further treatment, but it affirmed the lower court’s decisions regarding the evidentiary objections.

If you or someone you love suffered injuries while on the job, The Hoffman Firm can help. Our experienced team of workers’ compensation professionals can help you collect the evidence you need and navigate the complex and stressful workers’ compensation system. We offer a free consultation, so you have nothing to lose. Call us now at (800) 223-1866 or contact us online to set up your appointment.

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Evan A. Hoffman

Evan A. Hoffman

Mr. Hoffman’s philosophy is "our knowledge and experience is your best defense." He has been a featured author on criminal law issues such as driving under the influence, domestic violence and illegal searches.

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