Can Injured Workers Still Pursue A Claim For Psychiatric Injury After 1-1-2013?
Insurance company attorneys frequently state: “You don’t have a right to a psychiatric claim after 1-1-2013.” Sometimes it’s said quietly with mock concern. More often, it’s declared with cold finality. Without question, psychiatric injuries can be extremely disabling for workers.
I’m here to tell you what the law says.
If the injured worker has a physical injury and, AS A CONSEQUENCE of the physical injury, they develop a psychological disability, California Labor Code section 4660.1 says they cannot obtain Permanent Disability (PD) benefits. However, there are at least two important considerations:
Just because the injured worker cannot obtain PD benefits, they nevertheless can obtain Medical Treatment for the Psychiatric/Psychological condition—AND, it is highly arguable, that they can also obtain Temporary Disability (TD) benefits in conjunction with that Medical Treatment.
If the physical injury (which led to the psychiatric condition) can be convincingly argued as “catastrophic” OR the physical injury was brought about by a “violent act” (either as the victim or a witness), then the injured worker is entitled to Medical Treatment—including TD and PD benefits.
(NOTE: The question of what a “catastrophic injury” is has yet to be defined by available (as of 7-9-2018) appellate case decisions. The question of what constitutes a “violent act” has been answered in several appellate court decisions, although more clarity would be beneficial.)
Therefore, if the psychiatric injury and/or disability is a DIRECT CONSEQUENCE of the acts or events which also brought about the physical injury, then the injured worker would be entitled to all the usual benefits for any resulting psychiatric disability. This is so because it would no longer be considered “compensable consequence” of a physical injury (which is what Labor Code section 4660.1 largely focuses on).
The Bottom Line:
When it can be successfully argued that the injured worker has Anxiety or Depression, as direct consequence of an event at work, then the denial of ordinary benefits which 4660.1 sought to impose will not apply. This information may seem complex to you. Rest assured, it isn’t to us. If work-based psychiatric injury impacts you or a loved one, contact us for a free case evaluation. We have the necessary skills to protect your interests. Se habla español.
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