Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Is All Too Real

PTSD can be caused by traumatic events that happen anywhere - at war or in the workplace.

Last week Margaret Anderson, a Park Ranger at Mount Ranier National Park, was killed by an Iraq war veteran who may have been suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Her tragic death reminded me of several workers I have represented who had this condition after experiencing and/or witnessing horrific trauma in the workplace.

One was a 20 year employee of a public gas company who was heroically trying to fix a gas leak in a neighborhood when the gas line exploded and burned off most of his face. He healed but has flashbacks of the explosion, nightmares, depression and is constantly irritable. Before this event he was a great worker, a good family man and had a good sense of humor. He hasn’t been the same since.

Adjusters, employers, co-workers, attorneys and family members should understand that PTSD is a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention and that the failue to recognize and treat the condition can lead to tragic consequences.

Another client was on an assembly line in Raleigh, N.C. when an explosion sent a ball of fire racing through the plant. The ceiling caved in and a worker right next to her was crushed to death. Fortunately, because of workers’ compensation, these injured workers got timely medical and psychiatric care, but what about those workers who don’t get adequate and quick treatment? Bad things can happen.

In reading Anthony Beevor’s excellent book, “D-Day – The Battle for Normandy” (Penguin Books, 2010), gruesome battle scenes were described as soldiers tried to capture Omaha Beach and beyond. One soldier saw “a man right next to him being hit by a splinter from a treeburst which entered the back of his head and came right through his face” (p.418). The effect on some of those who saw such events was called “exhaustion” and George Patton was severely rebuked when he accused them of being cowards.

Are some injured workers misdiagnosed, ignored, or not given proper and timely treatment after they experience traumatic events at work? Unfortunately, it does happen. 

Are some injured workers misdiagnosed, ignored, or not given proper and timely treatment after they experience similar scenes at work? Unfortunately, it does happen. Adjusters, employers, co-workers, attorneys and family members should understand that PTSD is a serious condition that needs immediate medical attention and that the failue to recognize and treat the condition can lead to tragic consequences, like the death of Margaret Anderson.

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