People involved in catastrophic workplace accidents often suffer not only physical harm but mental injuries as well. Thus, if they seek damages for their losses, they may have to undergo medical examinations to evaluate their physical and cognitive detriments. Typically, only physicians can conduct such examinations. Recently, a Massachusetts court evaluated whether neuropsychologists are considered doctors for the purpose of such examinations in a case in which the plaintiff sought damages for harm sustained in a workplace accident. If you suffered injuries at work, you might be able to recover benefits and pursue claims against third parties, and it is smart to meet with a Massachusetts workers’ compensation lawyer to assess your options.
The Plaintiff’s Harm
It is alleged that the plaintiff suffered critical injuries while working on a construction site. His co-conservators subsequently filed both a workers’ compensation claim seeking benefits from the plaintiff’s employer and a civil lawsuit seeking damages from the general contractor for the site on the plaintiff’s behalf. According to the report of a neuropsychologist, the plaintiff suffered from cognitive and physical deficits as a result of the accident.
Reportedly, the defendant’s neuropsychologist disagreed with the plaintiff’s assertion after reviewing his medical records, and the defendant moved to have the plaintiff undergo an independent medical examination. The plaintiff objected to the motion on the grounds that the neuropsychologist was not a physician and therefore was precluded from examining the plaintiff pursuant to Massachusetts Rule of Civil Procedure 35. The court granted the defendant’s motion, and the plaintiff appealed.
Medical Examinations in Cases Arising Out of Workplace Accidents
The key issue on appeal was the meaning of the term physician as it appeared in Rule 35. The court declined to adopt the plaintiff’s narrow interpretation of the word as precluding neuropsychologists. As Rule 35 did not include a definition of the term, the court looked to its generally accepted meaning, provided that such meaning was consistent with the purposes of the Rule.
The court explained that in the dictionary, physician means a doctor of medicine or a person skilled at healing others. Thus, the court was tasked with determining which definition was most appropriate. While noting that neuropsychologists are not doctors, the court stated that they nonetheless assess, diagnose, and treat people for neurological diseases and injuries, which they found made neuropsychologists parties who are adept at the art of healing. Thus, the court found that they were doctors under Rule 35 and affirmed the trial court ruling.
Speak to a Trusted Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
People who are injured while working on construction sites can often pursue civil claims against third parties in addition to recovering workers’ compensation benefits from their employers. If you were hurt while working, it is in your best interest to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. James K. Meehan of the Law Office of James K. Meehan is a trusted workers’ compensation lawyer who can assess your harm and advise you regarding what damages you may be able to recover. You can reach Mr. Meehan by calling 508-822-6600 or by using the form online to set up a meeting.