Smith v. County of Arlington, Va. App. Record No. 1902-10-4 (April 19, 2011).

The Virginia Court of Appeals affirmed the Commission’s finding that the Claimant did not suffer a compensable psychological injury by accident. On March 30, 2009, Claimant was employed as a deputy sheriff assigned to the medical unit of the jail. As she was making her rounds, she went into an inmate’s cell and found the inmate not moving and detected a strong odor of urine. The inmate was unresponsive and the skin was blue with dried white foam around the mouth. A nurse and another deputy sheriff arrived minutes later and Claimant was instructed on how to perform a sternum rub in order to attempt to revive the inmate, which she began to do. EMT’s arrived shortly after and took the inmate to the hospital.

Claimant sought assistance from a counselor that same day. She then began treating with a psychiatrist and continued ongoing psychiatric treatment. Although the psychiatrist characterized Claimant’s anxiety and disability as excessive, it was sincere. Claimant was diagnosed with acute stress disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder.

Claimant filed a claim for benefits and alleged a psychological injury without an accompanying physical injury. To be compensable, a purely psychological injury without a physical injury must be causally related to a sudden fright or shock arising in the course of employment. Claimant’s claim was denied because as a deputy sheriff assigned to the medical unit of the jail, she was trained in first aid, CPR and AED use, and it was not unexpected that a medical emergency may arise to which she would need to respond. The events leading up to the psychological injury did not meet the requisite standard.

Back to Workers’ Compensation Resources

In addition to aggressively pursuing defense of our clients’ interests, each spring, we present a free seminar to update employers, insurers, third-party administrators, and others on recent developments in workers’ compensation law. If you wish to be added to the mailing list for next year’s seminar, contact Marilyn N. Harvey.

The Gallery Building Suite 130 5712 Cleveland Street Virginia Beach, VA 23462 Ph: (757) 466-0464 Fax: (757) 466-8242 Email: