>Many injured workers suffer from anxiety and/or depression as a result of chronic pain, being out of work, adjusting to a new lifestyle, having difficulty with household chores, sexual dysfunction, and other consequences of their work injury.
An injured worker in Pennsylvania can bring a claim for depression by either including it on a Claim Petition if you were denied, or by filing what is called a “Review Petition” challenging the description of the accepted work injury. The insurance companies rarely accept a mental claim voluntarily, and tend to vigorously defend such claims when brought by the injured worker in Pennsylvania.
You strengthen your claim if you treat with a psychologist or psychiatrist, rather than a family physician or orthopedic doc. A family doc or orthopedic doc are competent to render opinions regarding depression and other mental claims if they regularly treat patients who have chronic pain and see how it affects their lives; however a workers comp judge is entitled to afford less weight to their opinion as compared to the opinion of a psychologist or psychiatrist.
“An expert medical witness in a workers’ compensation proceeding is qualified to testify outside of his medical specialty, and any objection to that testimony goes to the weight of the evidence, not its competency. Lombardo v. Workers’ Compensation Appeal Board (Topps Co., Inc.)petition for allowance of appeal denied, 553 Pa. 701, 718 A.2d 787 (1998).”
Mental claims are more difficult to win than physical injuries. This is due in part to the fact that many people have prior mental issues, whether anxiety, depression, ADD, bi-polar, etc. The insurance companies and their lawyers will use the prior issues/episodes as leverage in defending the claim. They do this with physical injuries too of course.
Many attorneys like to just throw in a mental claim when challenging the description of the injury regarding the physical injuries- however, many judges are hesitant to grant the mental claim unless you have a very strong case.
This isn’t to say that a mental claim should not be filed; you just have to have your “ducks in a row”, have solid medical evidence backing up the claim, and the injured worker must realize that all prior issues in their lives will come to surface when cross examined in court and from the medical records which will be secured by defense counsel. This can be emotionally draining and difficult for the injured worker- so be measured when thinking about pursuing this type of claim b/c it can get messy.
-Michael W. Cardamone
Pennsylvania Workers Comp Lawyer