In California, an industrial injury does not have to be a physical injury, such as a broken arm. It can also be an emotional injury due to stress or trauma caused by the employment.
In a typical case, an employee claimed that he was subjected to a campaign of harassment by his supervisor, eventually resulting in his wrongful termination. The employee sued in civil court, but the California Supreme Court ruled that his only available remedy was in workers’ compensation - Livitsanos v. Superior Court, 2 Cal. 4th 744 (1992).
Claims of psychiatric injury can be mysterious and difficult to disprove. There is no way to objectively verify the existence of a psychiatric injury, which can result in fraudulent or exaggerated claims. For these reasons, California has taken steps over the last 20 years to enact higher thresholds of compensability for claims of psychiatric injury.