Mental stress injuries are compensable in Illinois. Like any other type of injury, psychological injuries must be properly diagnosed and treated by a qualified doctor. These can be difficult cases to prove, and even when solid proof is present these cases are difficult to argue. The insurance industry and the general public remain skeptical regarding psychological injuries. However, psychological injuries are compensable under both personal injury law and Illinois Worker’s Compensation Law.


In personal injury cases, the elements of proof for emotional distress cases have long been established by Illinois courts. Illinois personal injury law recognizes a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress for both direct victims and bystanders. If a plaintiff hopes to recover damages under a cause of action for negligent infliction of emotional distress, Illinois law does make a distinction between direct victims and bystanders.

A. Direct Victims

A direct victim may be able to recover damages under a negligent infliction of emotional distress claim if he or she can show that the defendant was negligent and the negligence was a the proximate cause of a physical injury or illness. In this instance negligence is estabalished by proving these four elements:

  • duty
  • breach of duty
  • causation; and
  • damages.

B. Bystander

If the plaintiff is a bystander, he or she must prove:

  • that he or she was in the zone of physical danger
  • that he or she reasonably feared for his or her own safety because of the defendant’s negligence; and
  • that he or she suffered a physical injury or illness as a result of the emotional distress caused by the defendant’s negligence.


Illinois Worker’s Compensation Law recognizes mental stress injuries caused by a physical trauma, and in some more extreme situations psychological injuries caused at work without a physical injury. In contrast to recovery elements for personal injury for negligent infliction of emotional distress, worker’s compensation claims can offer some unique challenges to plaintiffs and attorneys in terms of evidence and proof when building a case that involves mental injuries without the physcial counterpart.

A. Mental Stress Caused by a Physical Injury

In worker’s compensation cases, certain physical events trigger psychological trauma that could prove to be compensable under Illinois worker’s compensation law. For example, if your supervisor hits you in a manner that caused you to have panic attacks, you may be able to recover under worker’s compensation. Another scenario may involve an incident where you are physically injured while at work and this causes you to become severely depressed and/or have a fear of working because of the injury you sustained.

B. Mental – Mental Cases

Worker’s compensation claims are covered under state law and under Illinois law, the courts have recognized claims where there are mental damages without an acutal physical injury. The mental-mental worker’s compensation claim encompasses factors where both the cause of the injury and the resulting manifestation of the injury are mental as opposed to being physically induced. The key to recovering mental-mental damages in worker’s compensation cases is to show that a particular situation involved a suddent, shocking event. In cases where the mental trauma is not related to a sudden, shocking event, the plaintiff must show that the mental trauma experienced was extraordinary and the employment conditions surrounding the mental trauma were a substantial cause of the psychological disorder.

Since recovery of mental damages under either personal injury or worker’s compensation require varying elements of proof, I encourage injury victims to seek the proper legal consultation concerning the specific facts of his or her case.

In order to discuss your situation with me personally, you may call the Law Office of Steven A. Sigmond at (312) 258-81881 or visit our websites at or and submit your information for a confidential free consultation.

About Author

Chicago Accident Lawyer Steven A. Sigmond

Chicago attorney Steven A. Sigmond, a trial lawyer with 35 years experience representing injury victims, blogs about legal news and topics of interest from a trial lawyer's perspective.


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