When Are Mental Exams By the Defense Allowed to Be Used on an Employee?

Whenever an individual takes part in a lawsuit against his or her employer, the defense attorney (the person who is representing your previous employer) might demand that you take a mental health exam. Any Lakeland employment attorney can tell you that, generally speaking, defense attorneys often request mental exams for two primary reasons, both of which are totally unrelated to the stated purpose of the exam, which is to evaluate one's mental condition.

Defense attorneys tend to think that the mere threat of a defense mental exam will scare you into either dropping your lawsuit or settling it for a great deal less than it's worth. Also, defense attorneys will use the defense mental exam as a means of discovery in order to try to get negative information about you to which they would otherwise not be privy.

The Rules of Evidence provide that mental exams are allowed to be taken (1) as required by a court order or an agreement that has been made between the parties, and (2) only if your mental health is in question. However, in a small number of jurisdictions, the courts believe that by simply alleging emotional distress damages, you have placed your own mental health in question. The reasoning that these courts use is that if you are going to put forth evidence of emotional distress (even if it's only "normal" emotional distress), then the defendant-employer has the right to have you examined in an effort to obtain evidence to defend against your claim.

Still, any Lakeland employment attorney will tell you that the majority of courts have rejected this idea in favor of a balancing test that takes into account whether you have done more than merely alleged mental distress. In these jurisdictions, you would not be subjected to a psychiatric exam simply because you claim to have suffered embarrassment, mental distress, and/or emotional distress as a result of the defendant-employer's actions. You, additionally, would have to allege one or more of the following factors: (1) you have set forth a particular cause of action for the purposeful or negligent infliction of emotional distress; (2) you have alleged a particular mental or psychiatric injury or disorder; (3) you have claimed extraordinarily severe emotional distress; (4) you have put forth expert testimony in support of your claim for emotional distress damages; and/or (5) you, yourself, admit that your mental health is at issue within the meaning of the Rules of Evidence.

If you are worried about the possibility of having to submit to a defense mental exam, you should speak with a Lakeland employment attorney so that he or she can further explain the applicable law in your jurisdiction and go over your legal options. Please contact the Law Offices of Smith, Feddeler & Smith at (863) 688-7766 for a free consultation.