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In seamen and longshoremen, court says PTSD counts

Just like many other medical problems like burns or broken limbs, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in maritime employees can be work-related, according to the federal courts.


federal case decided the issue

A longshoreman was at work on a Virginia pier when someone he was working with died in a horrible accident.

Right away, he showed serious signs of PTSD. He saw doctor after doctor, and all but one agreed he clearly had PTSD. When one doctor finally disagreed with the others, his employer stopped paying his bills.

He turned to the U.S. Department of Labor who said the company should pay. The company refused and the case went up to a three-judge panel at the U.S. Court of Appeals.

They agreed with the longshoreman and most of the doctors. As a longshoreman, the Longshore and Harbor Workers Compensation Act (LHWCA) covered the man’s PTSD.

What are the signs of PTSD?

It takes someone with real training in mental health to know if you have PTSD, but these are some of the usual signs:

  • Feeling like the event is happening now.
  • Not wanting to talk or think about the event.
  • Not being able to remember parts of the event.
  • Feeling angry, afraid, tense or nervous for “no reason.”
  • Feeling guilty or ashamed, or blaming others.
  • Not being able to sleep.
  • Feeling not interested in life or unable to think.

Should you see a doctor?

  • If the signs go on for more than a month, yes.
  • If they keep you from going back to normal life, yes.
  • If you are thinking about hurting yourself, yes.

How common is PTSD?

PTSD is not just for combat veterans. Anybody might develop it after a trauma. Trauma is a common reaction when people see or go through something extremely dangerous, troubling or shocking.

About 8 million people have PTSD in a given year. At one time or another in their lives, about 8 people out of every 100 will have PTSD.