Testimony from Psychologists in TN Workers’ Compensation Cases

Often in workers’ compensation claims, when the claim involves mental injuries, psychologists are offered by the insurance companies for treatment.  Psychologists are not entitled to give a finding of causation under the act. As the Supreme Court stated in its unreported decision Shelby v. Highways, Inc, 2003 Tenn. Lexis 413 (May 13,2003), “the trial court cannot base a finding of causation solely upon the opinion of a psychologist.” Id. at *12 (citing Cigna Property & Cas. Ins. Co. v. Sneed, 772 S.W.2d 422 (Tenn. 1989». The Shelby Court indicated that the holding does not preclude inclusion of all of a psychologists’ testimony, but does preclude the psychologist from making statements regarding causation of any given injury. It is well established jurisprudence in the state of Tennessee that causation may only be proven by medical expert testimony, and in Rapier v. Jones Blair Paint, 2002 Tenn. Lexis 428 (Sept. 27,2002), the plaintiffs even conceded that “a psychologist is not competent to render an opinion as to causation and permanency of an injury in workers’ compensation cases.” See also McCaleb v. Saturn Corp., 910 S.W.2d 412 (Tenn. 1994) and (Argonaut Ins. Co. v. Williams, 580 S.W.2d 784 (Tenn. 1979) (both holding that causation and permanency of injury must be established by expert medical testimony). Tennessee courts have clearly stated that “while a clinical psychologist may have valuable testimony to offer, such testimony is not competent in a workers’ compensation case on the issues of causation or permanence of medical impairment.” Skelton v. Robertshaw Controls Co., 1998 WL 740855 (Tenn. Workers Compo Panel Oct. 26, 1998). Further, the Tennessee Supreme Court in Freemon V. VF Corp, Kay Windsor Div., 675 S.W.2d 710 (1984) expressly held that a psychologist was not a medical doctor and was not qualified to establish permanence in a workers compensation case.

To read about the upcoming changes in the Workers’ Compensation law, click here.

If you need more information about a Social Security Disability/SSI, personal injury, EEOICPA, long or short-term disability, VA disability, Railroad Retirement Board disability, or a workers compensation matter, please contact the Law Offices of Tony Farmer and John Dreiser for a free case evaluation. We can be reached at (865) 584-1211 or (800) 806-4611 or through our website. Our office handles claims throughout East Tennessee, including Knoxville, Chattanooga, Kingsport, Bristol, Johnson City, Morristown, Maryville, Rogersville, Dandridge, Tazewell, New Tazewell, Jefferson City, Strawberry Plains, Sevierville, Gatlinburg, Loudon, Kingston, Halls, Maynardville, Crossville, Cookeville, Jamestown, Sweetwater, Lenoir City, Athens, Oak Ridge, Clinton, LaFollette, Lake City, Jacksboro, Bean Station, Cosby, Newport, White Pine, Mosheim, Wartburg, Sunbright, Pigeon Forge, Greeneville, Harriman, Dayton, Spring City, and Deer Lodge.




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