“You Can’t Handle the Truth?”
In California Workers’ Compensation Law, Injured Workers who have emotional, stress or mental health claims may attend a Psychological Evaluation by a mental health practitioner for which a medical report is generated. Frequently, these reports contain language within them similar to this language:
“This psychiatric mental health report is confidential and privileged. This report is meant for the use of qualified professionals only and those with the need to know. If the applicant wishes to review this report, he or she should only review it under the supervision of a therapist or psychiatrist because the report may be easily misinterpreted by the applicant. Some individuals and family members may misunderstand and/or distort the information in this report. This may result in the significant psychological harm to the applicant or may interfere with treatment and recovery from illness. For individuals with self-destructive or violent tendencies, the consequences of disclosure of this report may be serious. Persons breaching the confidential nature of this report are acting against medical advice and assume any and all risks and liabilities of doing so.”
Although the evaluator does not want you to review the report by yourself and you need someone else to review it with you, you should not be discouraged from knowing the contents of the report. The report may have serious consequences as to the legitimacy of your claim. Your review may be of import concerning the accuracy of the report.
Why is this Mental Health Report Important To Me?
With respect to the report, irrespective of the content of the report, the conclusions of the report are important for an Injured Worker to know.
- First, whether there was a psychiatric injury/condition/diagnosis.
- Second, whether the psychiatric injury is considered to be industrial.
- Third, whether you are considered to be temporary disability disabled as a result of your condition.
- Fourth, whether you are considered to have permanent disability as a result of your condition.
- Fifth, whether you are considered to be entitled to medical treatment as a result of your condition.
- Sixth, whether you are considered to be eligible to return to your usual and customary job as a result of your condition.
Further, if there is some disagreement with the conclusions of the report, it is important for the Injured Worker to review the report for the purposes of seeing whether the evaluator reported information and complaints accurately. Reviewing the report would allow the Injured Worker the opportunity to more effectively contest the findings and opinions contained within the report.
I Want to Review My Report, How Should I approach it?
It depends. If you have an attorney, I would recommend one course. If you do not, I recommend another.
- If you are represented by an attorney, I would recommend that you contact your attorney and see if they are willing to go over the report with you. Alternatively, you could go to your mental health practitioner to review it with you. This most likely would be your treating psychiatrist, psychologist, or therapist.
- If you are unrepresented, you could ask the insurance company to send a copy to your mental health practitioner to review it with you. Again, this would most likely be your treating psychiatrist, psychologist or therapist.
- If you wanted to see the report and no one will provide it to you, you most likely will have to request a hearing before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. A Workers’ Compensation Judge will then determine whether you should be allowed to review the report. The appropriate hearing to do so would be a Status Conference. If you are unrepresented, you can contact the Information and Assistance Officer at your local Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board to make such an arrangement.
Why Are They Doing It?
It appears that Psychiatrists and Psychologists are afraid that you will get mad at them. Perhaps, they are afraid that you will take out your anger upon them. They fear that this can occur in the form of an act of violence. Further, today, with Social Media, a posting on a Social Media website about the practitioner is a concern as well.
Note: It is ironic to note that Injured Workers also can get upset at orthopedic reports, internal medicine report, etc., but they are allowed to view those reports. Also, there is the fear that psychological reporting in these evaluations may cause some emotional harm or impact treatment.
The bottom line, however, is that it is understandable that reading such a report can be upsetting and can give rise to further emotional upset.
Why Should an Injured Worker with Mental Health Issues be Concerned?
My concern is that mental health patients should not be discriminated against because of their condition. They have a constitutional right to pursue their workers’ compensation claims and are entitled to due process.
In sum, they should be entitled to pursue their mental health claims in the same manner as workers who have other body parts injured. There should be no difference. They should not have to litigate a case with one hand tied behind their back. One can only litigate their mental health claim effectively if they are aware of the facts and the contents of medical reports. This knowledge can allow the Injured Worker a better opportunity to contest the validity of the medical opinion and report before the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board.
As an Injured Worker, Where Can I Get Advice?
If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 26 years. Contact us today for more information.