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Is Work Giving You Migraines? Will Workers' Comp Cover That?

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Migraines aren't like ordinary headaches—they won't go away with a couple of Advil and a glass of water. It's estimated that 13% of U.S. adults have migraines and 2-3 million suffers have them as a chronic condition. All told, migraines rank as the 19th most common cause of disability according to the World Health Organization—but is it something that's covered under workers' comp?

Are your migraines caused by your job?

The most difficult part about claiming compensation for migraines under workers' comp is that you have to prove that your condition is related to some aspect of the job. Proving that the job caused the migraines can be a really tough standard to meet with something like migraines, which are increasingly being seen as a hereditary condition. However, there is a condition called post-traumatic headache (PTH), which closely resembles migraines in nature and is known to develop after head injuries. Other people have also attributed the start of their migraine attacks to something that happened on the job, particularly head injuries. If you and your physicians think that your migraines developed as a result of an on-the-job injury to your head, you could have a valid claim for workers' compensation.

Were your migraines aggravated by your job?

You can also have a valid claim even if you always had migraines but they've significantly worsened due to some aspect of your job. There are a number of environmental factors that are known to affect migraine sufferers and actually induce migraines:

  • disrupted sleep schedules, which could be caused by being forced to rotate shifts or do mandatory double shifts
  • flickering lights, especially those caused by overhead fluorescent lighting 
  • fumes and vapors from various chemicals, especially if the work environment is poorly ventilated
  • a physical strain that affected your neck muscles or upper shoulders, particularly after bending or lifting something heavy

Workers' comp is designed to cover employees with pre-existing conditions that are aggravated through issues they encounter on the job, so you may be able to establish a link between one or more of these factors and your increased migraines in order to file a successful claim.

Are your migraines simply the result of normal stress?

If your migraines are the result of ordinary job stress, you won't be able to claim workers' comp benefits. For example, a California employee sought benefits after he claimed friction with his boss caused his migraines to escalate. However, organic conditions like migraines aren't covered if they're aggravated by personnel actions that are done in good faith, such as being reprimanded by your boss for not getting your work done on time. On the other hand, had his migraines been the result of purposefully inflicted psychological trauma, the worker may have prevailed with his case.

For more information on whether or not your migraines could qualify for workers' comp benefits, talk to an attorney in your area today such as those found at Freedman, Wagner, Tabakman & Weiss.