Volume 26, Issue 3 (July 1981)
The Role of the Defense Psychiatrist in Workmen's Compensation Cases
Tomorrow's psychiatrist should be more cognizant, competent, and comfortable in forensic science matters. Psychiatric cases are increasingly the subjects of litigation, but justice in the courts depends on able advocacy by all parties. Advocacy for patient-plaintiffs is more similar to customary clinical roles than is advocacy for defendant insurance companies, which nevertheless are as needful of competent psychiatric experts as patient-plaintiffs if justice is to be done. Ironically, defense psychiatrists can do much to help patient-plaintiffs if they understand their roles correctly. Since legal systems are designed to produce justice, not therapy, the forensic competence of future psychiatrists will help to make litigation more therapeutic and just for patients. This paper describes the peculiarities of psychiatric work in litigated workmen's compensation cases, focusing on the role of the defense psychiatrist. We will highlight the constructive and therapeutically gratifying potentials of this work. Greater familiarity with the process will help to enlist the interest and participation of psychiatrists in workmen's compensation cases for the ultimate benefit of the patients and improvement of the legal system.