Home > Uncategorized > Ivan [and] the Terrible [Paper Cut], or is this Psyche Injury “Catastrophic”? [Part 3 of 3]

Ivan [and] the Terrible [Paper Cut], or is this Psyche Injury “Catastrophic”? [Part 3 of 3]

Here were are again, dear readers.  Some have come willingly; some don’t know how to make the “unsubscribe” button work on their e-mails (it’s just there for show, dear readers – you’re stuck with me for good!).  Whichever way you made it here, it’s time to wrap up the story of Ivan and his totally permanently disabling paper cut injury.

Labor Code section 3208.3(d) provides that, for a psyche claim to be compensable, an injured worker must have been employed at least 6 months, unless the injury was caused by a “sudden and extraordinary employment condition.  Leaving aside the 3208.3 defenses involved in this case, and boring poor Ivan with the particulars of what is considered sudden and what is considered extraordinary, do these rules still apply?

Is it enough to show that there is a catastrophic event, under Labor Code section 4660.1, regardless of the applicant’s tenure?  Can an injury be catastrophic under section 4660.1, and yet not sudden and extraordinary in the meaning of 3208.3(d)?  And what effect do these moving parts have on the benefits to which an injured worker may be entitled?

The language of 4660.1 suggests that the measurement of the operative words, “catastrophic” refers to the injury, or rather the physical effects of the injury – paralysis, loss of a limb, severe burns, severe head injury.  By contrast, section 3208.3(d) discusses a “sudden an extraordinary employment condition.”  Furthermore, while the failure to establish at least 6 months of employment or a sudden and extraordinary employment condition precludes the recovery of any “compensation,” the failure to establish a catastrophic event merely precludes any increase in impairment due to the psychiatric injury.

Section 4660.1(c)(1) specifically provides that “[n]othing in this section shall limit the ability of an injured employee to obtain treatment for … psychiatric disorder, if any, that [is] a consequence of an industrial injury.”

So, in other words, if all that you’re missing is proof of a catastrophic event, Ivan may be able to secure the right to treatment, but if Ivan’s employment was less than six months in length and the injury wasn’t caused by a sudden and extraordinary employment condition, Ivan may be out of luck completely.

But… where does that leave temporary disability benefits?  TTD isn’t medical treatment, as specifically protected by section 4660.1(c)(1), yet it’s not really an increase in impairment, as excluded by section (c)(2).  A good defense attorney would argue that if the legislature wanted to protect temporary disability benefits, the legislature could have done so as did for medical treatment.  But, at the same time, any applicant’ attorney would likely argue that if the legislature wanted to exclude temporary disability benefits, it could have done so as well, like it excluded any increase for impairment.

At this point, with little to no authority on the subject, it looks like an injured worker could make it past the hurdles of 3208.3 but fail to make it past the test of 4660.1, and thereby become entitled to temporary disability and medical treatment, but not permanent disability.

In Ivan’s case?  It may be a hard sell.  His three-month tenure with the paper factor probably precludes any psyche claim, as being barred by Labor Code section 3208.3.  But, let’s say his attorney manages to persuade a WCJ that 4660.1 renders 3208.3 inoperative, or perhaps that the slip-and-fall and the fluttering piece of paper were sudden and extraordinary, then perhaps he might be able to get medical treatment and temporary disability benefits.

However, aside from applicants’ attorneys’ fantasies, there’s no basis to conclude that 3208.3 is somehow made inoperative by 4660.1.  So make sure there’s another bullet point on your checklist, because, even if a doctor or a medical evaluator finds Ivan permanent and stationary and assigns any level of permanent disability, unless the adjuster on his case thinks that the injury was “catastrophic,” he’s probably going to see a denial notice issued.

What do you think, dear readers?  Should Ivan let the matter go, or just get over his paper cut and get back to work?

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