Dangerfield v. Hunt Forest Products, Inc., No. 2010 CA 1324 (La. Ct. App. 03/25/11).
The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that a worker, who suffered a work-related injury that amputated two of his fingers, was entitled to a psychiatric evaluation.
What it means: In Louisiana, a worker who suffers a traumatic injury will be entitled to a psychiatric evaluation by his choice of psychiatrist or psychologist.
Summary: A dryer tender at a plywood plant was injured when he was attempting to unplug a machine that dried wood. The machine suddenly started and caught his right hand in a sprocket. His pointer and small fingers were amputated, and his long and ring fingers became stuck in a hook position. He underwent three surgical procedures. The plant paid workers' compensation benefits. Later, the tender requested an evaluation by his choice of psychiatrist. The plant denied the request. The Louisiana Court of Appeal held that the tender was entitled to a psychiatric evaluation.
The plant argued that the tender willfully made false statements and forfeited his right to workers' compensation benefits. The tender testified that after the accident he suffered sleeplessness due to nightmares, cold sweats, and nervous shakes. He said he told his doctor about these symptoms and feelings of depression. However, the doctor had no record of these remarks. The doctor did not find the tender to have indications of psychological problems or depression. The court decided the absence of a medical record notation did not warrant a forfeiture of benefits.
A mental injury is compensable if it was caused by a physical injury. A diagnosis by a psychologist or psychiatrist is necessary. The court said that the tender had not been evaluated by any psychiatric professional. The court granted his request for a psychiatric evaluation because of the "traumatic" injury he suffered. The court said that whether the plant would be responsible for treatment should be determined after the evaluation.
The court found that the doctor's opinion that psychological treatment was not necessary was a valid basis for the plant's failure to consent to an evaluation. Therefore, the court did not award penalties or attorney's fees.
Read more at the WorkersComp Forum homepage.
May 16, 2011
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