New Washington Administrative Code (WAC) rules that set guidelines for independent medical examinations (IME) take effect on April 23, 2022.…
Understanding Psychological Treatment Under the L&I System
There is a natural psychological impact on any worker who has been seriously injured and/or unable to work for a long period of time. The most common psychological conditions are the result of a psychosocial fallout of serious injuries or occupational diseases are depression, anxiety and various adjustment disorders. Many injured or sick workers suffer without seeking treatment even though treating the psychological damage of an injury or disease may be even more important (in individual cases) than treating the physical harm of that injury. Each person reacts to serious injury or disease in their own way, but the vast majority of those who have suffered serious limitations related to their L&I matter will require psychiatric assistance.
When the Washington State Department of Labor & Industries or a Self-Insured Employer is confronted with an allegation of consequential depression, anxiety or adjustment disorder, the reaction is often to deny that the situation even exists. Claims managers very often don’t assist injured workers to make consequential mental health claims against the Department of Labor & Industries or Self-Insured Employers because treatment of those conditions typically delay claim closure and adds to costs. Simply put, it’s not in the best interests financially of a party defending a workers’ compensation claim to agree to pay for treatment costs and increases in resulting permanency awards. For this reason, defendants often resist allowance of these conditions.
Knowing What Is & Is Not Available Under the Industrial Insurance Act
Psychological treatment that is available under the Industrial Insurance Act includes all of the following:
- Individual Psychotherapy
- Group Psychotherapy
- Therapy Including Family Members
- Narcosynthesis (therapy under light anesthesia)
Psychological treatment that is NOT available under the Industrial Insurance Act includes all of the following:
- Psychoanalysis (a therapy technique originated by Sigmund Freud which explores the mental processes of a patient by using free association, dream interpretation, and analysis of resistance and transference)
- Multiple family group psychotherapy
- Family psychotherapy without the patient’s presence
- Interactive psychotherapy (such as use of physical aids, play equipment and other mechanisms of nonverbal communication to interview/treat the patient)
The rules to obtain psychiatric treatment under the L&I system are complex and sometimes daunting, especially to those already suffering from a serious combination of physical and mental health limitations. Nevertheless, the possible rewards to following through with a claim for consequential mental health impact are substantial.
Often times a workplace injury pension award or substantially increased permanent partial disability award results in additional time being added to the loss benefits; this can prevent vocational rehabilitation counselors from improperly certifying an injured worker’s ability to return to work. It can also prevent attending physicians from ordering their patients back to work until a proper assessment and treatment has been provided.
In the end, the psychological harms of an L&I injury or occupational disease can often be far more financially valuable to the worker than the original injury or disease itself.
If you suspect that you have depression, anxiety or an adjustment disorder as a result of your industrial injury or occupational disease, tell your attending provider, ask for a mental health assessment by a treating psychiatrist. DO NOT have this done by an IME doctor who has been contracted by the defense’s interests.
We Can Help Your Labor & Industries Claim
When navigating a L&I claim in Washington, consider hiring the experienced and capable L&I attorneys of Washington Law Center. We can help extend the life of your claim so that you can obtain the treatment and vocational benefits you deserve. In the end, when we’ve added a consequential mental health diagnosis to the list of allowed conditions in your L&I claim, this will assist you to achieve retraining benefits or an injury pension that may have otherwise been denied.
Don’t suffer in silence or mismanage your claim into a position where you lose substantial benefits and the support of those around you. Don’t look back on your closed claim and regret failing to reach out for the assistance everyone with a significant mental health injury should obtain. The attorneys of Washington Law Center are experienced, compassionate and capable. We’ll work diligently to make sure this aspect of your L&I claim is properly compensated. Contact us today!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Spencer Parr is a litigation and trial attorney at Washington Law Center focused primarily in the areas of Labor & Industries claims and injury pension benefits. Before co-founding Washington Law Center, Spencer served in the U.S. Army. He has litigated major issues in the law, represented clients from coast to coast, and dedicated his professional life to assisting the injured and disabled. Click here to learn more about Spencer. View More Labor & Industries and Work Injury Resources.