The BC Supreme Court recently upheld a decision by the BC Workers Compensation Board to deny compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”).
During his 32 years as a bus driver, the claimant was involved in a number of attacks and confrontations with passengers and motorists. In February 2005, during a fare dispute, he was threatened by a passenger who had assaulted him only four months earlier. When he was subsequently diagnosed with PTSD, he sought compensation for mental stress under the Workers Compensation Act.
The claim was denied by the Board and its appeal tribunal, which held that the Act only permitted compensation for mental stress caused by an “acute reaction to a sudden and unexpected traumatic event”. Such claims require an objective assessment of whether the triggering event would be “generally recognized as traumatic”. As a result, the claimant’s subjective experience and past history could not be taken into account. Assessing the case objectively, the Board found that the February 2005 incident was minor and would not have caused PTSD in an ordinary person.
In upholding the Board’s decision, the B.C. Supreme Court confirmed that an individual’s subjective experience will not be considered in assessing claims for mental stress under the Act.
The Court’s decision may slow the recent increase in the number of employees seeking compensation for mental stress under the Act.