A CTA employee who attempted to help a dying coworker has been approved to receive benefits for her work-related PTSD.
Man Flatlines on Train
In Lisa McKenzie v. Chicago Transit Authority, the Petitioner was employed as a full-time CTA train operator. As part of the duties of her job, she was required to operate a Blue Line train from Forest Park to O’Hare Airport and back during each shift.
On June 10, 2019, Ms. McKenzie had already completed one-and-a-half trips when she adjourned to the CTA training-and-break room to eat her lunch while still on the clock. As she was eating, she received notice that a coworker on the train below was ill.
When she went down to the cab of the train to render assistance, Ms. McKenzie discovered that her coworker was unconscious and not breathing. She placed him on the floor of the train and began performing CPR and mouth-to-mouth resuscitation as she waited for paramedics and police to come to the scene. During this period, she was forced to remain inside the train, which made her highly anxious, so much so that she broke into tears with worry over her coworker’s condition.
Ms. McKenzie’s emotional distress only got worse when emergency personnel finally arrived. After they hooked her fellow employee up to an EKG, she watched helplessly as he “flatlined.” Ms. McKenzie was unable to leave the train until her coworker was removed from it by stretcher, at which point she said she began crying and shaking nonstop. She later learned that the man died shortly afterward.
CTA Train Operator Diagnosed with PTSD
Ms. McKenzie’s employer sent her to receive treatment that same day. After she provided a description of what had happened, she informed the medical provider that she was mentally distraught, suffering from crying spells, and experiencing strong feelings of sadness, anxiety, and depression.
The provider referred Ms. McKenzie to a psychologist, who diagnosed her with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). She went to therapy sessions twice a week until she was released from care on August 9, 2019, at which point she returned to her position as a CTA train operator.
PTSD Arose Out of and in the Course of Employment
Workers’ compensation attorneys representing Ms. McKenzie filed a claim on her behalf seeking benefits from the CTA for the work-related PTSD she experienced following this incident. The matter went to an arbitrator, who found that her injury arose out of and in the course of her employment.
In making this determination, the arbitrator cited Pathfinder Co. v. Industrial Commission, which ruled that psychological injuries are compensable when a petitioner suffers a “sudden, severe, emotional shock traceable to definitive time, place, and cause which causes psychological injury or harm though no physical trauma was sustained.” In this case, Ms. McKenzie personally witnessed a coworker become ill, attempted to render aid to him, later learned that he died, and testified to becoming immediately distraught, nervous, scared, and tearful. The experience was therefore a shock that was sudden, severe, and traceable to the specific time and place of the incident in question.
Consequently, the arbitrator found that the accident was foreseeable and causally related to the Petitioner’s employment and that it arose out and in the course of that same employment. The CTA presented no evidence to rebut either her medical records or her testimony.
IWCC Affirms Decision on Work-Related PTSD
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission (IWCC) affirmed the arbitrator’s decision, though it modified and outlined the basis for the train operator’s Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) ruling by detailing the analysis under Section 8.1(b) of the Workers’ Compensation Act.
Nevertheless, the IWCC arrived at the same PPD settlement for three-percent loss of use of the man as a whole, along with payment of outstanding Temporary Total Disability benefits and medical care for the CTA employee’s work-related PTSD.
Helping Employees Obtain Work-Related PTSD Benefits
In Illinois, those who sustain injuries or illnesses related to their employment may be eligible for certain benefits under the state’s workers’ compensation system. But a claim for an employee suffering from a psychological condition like PTSD can be much more challenging than a claim for a worker with strictly physical injuries. To increase the likelihood of obtaining benefits for your work-related PTSD, reach out to the knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorneys at GWC Injury Lawyers LLC.
With more than $2 billion recovered in verdicts and settlements, GWC is one of the premier Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury law firms in Illinois. Our dedicated workers’ compensation attorneys have been helping employees in practically every profession with nearly every type of on-the-job injury for over four decades. GWC has the experience, the determination, the resources, and the reputation you need to get you and your family the justice you deserve.
To schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney, contact GWC today. You may call our office at (312) 464-1234 or click here to chat with a representative at any time.