Workers Compensation

Neuropsychological Evaluations in Workers' Compensation / Workmen’s Compensation Claims

Illinois workers’ compensation, also known as workman’s comp or workers’ comp claims, can be difficult to navigate because cognitive and emotional changes are often invisible. Unlike a broken limb, it is hard to prove or disprove cognitive challenges or emotional disorders in Workmen’s Compensation claims. Neuropsychological evaluations are pivotal in many worker’s compensation claims, providing an objective measure of a claimant’s cognitive and emotional functioning following an injury. These evaluations can objectively measure strengths and weaknesses and confirm the veracity of neurological deficits resulting from work-related injuries or illnesses.

For attorneys – both respondent’s and claimant’s – understanding the depth, scope, and prognosis of an injury can mean the difference between a successful and unresolved claim. When conducted impartially and thoroughly, such evaluations stand as robust evidence in legal proceedings. Increasingly, the legal profession relies on Independent Medical Examinations such as those conducted by neuropsychologists such as Dr. Brietzke.

Expert Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs)

Going beyond being generally accepted, expert Independent Medical Examinations (IMEs) that utilize neuropsychological testing represent the “gold standard” for cognitive and emotional assessment. Tests neuropsychologists use are considered valid, reliable, repeatable, and have known rates of error. These tests have also been extensively researched and subjected to peer review. As a result, these expert IME reports are less about the examiner’s opinion and more about conclusions drawn from these objective data. In short, a neuropsychologist’s approach to diagnosis, treatment planning, and prognosis is definitive, and their reports are very defensible.

Independent Medical Examination for Claimant

For claimant’s attorneys, a comprehensive neuropsychological evaluation can furnish solid evidence of cognitive, emotional, or behavioral impairments sustained by your client due to a work-related incident. This evidence can provide critical leverage when negotiating settlements or arguing for your client’s best interests in court. Furthermore, these evaluations can often elucidate the nature and extent of your client’s injuries, proving invaluable in quantifying damages, projecting future care needs, or guiding rehabilitation efforts. When the respondent questions the veracity of your client’s claims, the objective nature of neuropsychological evidence serves to clarify what is truly going on.

Independent Medical Examination for Respondent

Conversely, for respondent’s attorneys, an impartial neuropsychological assessment can act as a tool to identify and challenge exaggerated or fraudulent claims. By providing an objective, science-backed analysis of a claimant’s current state, these evaluations differentiate between genuine neurological deficits and feigned symptoms or symptoms that have another cause. In situations where litigation becomes inevitable, having a thorough and unbiased evaluation can be instrumental in protecting your client’s interests. In short, the objective nature of neuropsychological evidence separates fact from fiction.

Workers' Compensation Diagnoses Assessed

Many different diagnoses can be at question in workers’ compensation claims. Brain injuries and Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) are the most common, but neuropsychologists are equipped to assess several other diagnoses, including:

  • Toxin Exposure
  • Chronic Pain Disorders
  • Depressive Disorders
  • Anxiety Disorders
  • Somatization or Somatic Symptom Disorders
  • Stroke or Cerebrovascular Accident

Head Injuries

Head injuries are referred to in various ways, including post-concussive syndrome, traumatic brain injury (TBI), or mild traumatic brain injury (mTBI). Attorneys know that none of these terms nor the accompanying medical records convey much about the severity of changes in thinking abilities (i.e., cognitive functioning) or emotional functioning someone is experiencing. Frequently, it is very clear to the individual who has suffered a brain injury that things “just aren’t the same.” At other times, the brain injury may limit their ability to see how much has changed. Instead, their loved ones may notice them being forgetful, confused, or quick to anger. And sometimes, the symptoms being reported just do not demonstrate the severity of the original injury.

The Forgotten Symptoms of a Head Injury

Much focus on individuals with head injuries involves their altered thinking skills. Indeed, these changes can severely limit day-to-day functioning, but debilitating changes in emotional functioning are often overlooked. As an Attorney, you may not know what questions to ask or how to follow up if your client talks about their emotional challenges. Indeed, as an attorney you may find topics such as depression or anger too personal to ask about. Again, a neuropsychologist’s interview accompanied by various objective measurements rapidly clarifies these fuzzy topics.

Depression After a Brain Injury

It is very common for people who have sustained any kind of brain injury to experience depression. Understandably, people get depressed when their thinking, lifestyle, and livelihood are threatened. Still, there are also strictly neurologic reasons why a brain-injured person’s outlook on the world may turn hopeless and dark.

Commonly, brain-injured individuals are quick to become emotional. Sometimes, this takes the form of crying at a minor frustration, or other times, being irritable and quick to anger is more obvious. It is also common for a brain-injured individual to be unaware of their irritability, feel criticized when asked, or prefer to deny that this is a problem.

PTSD Expert Assessment

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, or PTSD, can arise after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event. The nature of its symptoms, sometimes subtle and sometimes delayed in onset, present unique challenges for the legal community.

The nuances of PTSD, like differing symptom presentations or the influence of pre-existing conditions, can greatly affect claims. Neuropsychologists must sift through many symptoms, some of which might be attributed to other psychological disorders. The key lies in comprehensive assessments, triangulating information from various sources, and ensuring that each finding aligns with the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. A balanced approach ensures that neither over-diagnosis nor under-diagnosis occurs, promoting fairness in worker’s compensation determinations.

Workers' Compensation - Providing Objective Proof

Through generally accepted, evidence-based techniques, neuropsychologists familiar with workers compensation evaluations can provide objective proof of which abilities have changed and how much. The measured nature and severity of these so-called posttraumatic sequelae provide information regarding whether an individual can eventually return to work or what the healing time needed to regain their previous level of functioning may be.

Fortunately, most brain-injured individuals’ thinking abilities improve with time, but not everyone’s memory, ability to think clearly, speak, understand others, and so on return to their previous baseline. Neuropsychological evaluation can address these issues as well.