Category Archives: workers comp basics

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Report Your Injury Right Away

Today’s post comes from guest author Brody Ockander from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

Truckers especially need to pay attention to this blog post. Most states require you to provide notice of your work injury to your employer as soon as is practicable. Failing to do so might prevent you from getting workers’ compensation benefits.

Because truckers are always on the go, sometimes they may not remember to report their injuries right away. Instead, maybe the trucker will simply finish the route and decide to get checked out later, completely forgetting to inform the employer. This can become a problem later and potentially could give your employer a reason to deny paying work comp benefits or paying for treatment for your work injury. Unfortunately, this is a fairly common mistake, as pointed out on one of the firm’s websites, www.truckerlawyers.com.

The moral of the story is if you’re hurt, tell your employer immediately. Communicate via your Qualcomm, call in, radio, email, or do whatever it takes, even if you have to call from the doctor’s office. Even if your injury seems insignificant at first, you’ll still want to give your employer notice. You’ll be better off in the long run.

questionnaire

What Should I Have Ready For My First Meeting With My Lawyer?

We provide a questionnaire for you to fill out before our first meeting

Most injured workers seeking an attorney’s help on their workers’ compensation claim have never hired an attorney before. This post gives a brief overview of how you can prepare for your first meeting with your attorney after you have been hurt at work.

The most important part of that first meeting takes place before you ever set foot in the attorney’s office. For your attorney, the goal of the first meeting is to gain an accurate understanding of the facts surrounding your injury. This is so the attorney can assess how the law will be applied to your case. In order for the attorney to make an accurate assessment, you have to be prepared to Continue reading

If I am Hurt on the Job, What Should I Tell My Doctor?

Today’s post comes from guest author Todd Bennett from Rehm, Bennett & Moore.

One of the most important parts of any case is the history of your injury that you provide to your doctor when you first see him or her.

If you were hurt during a specific incident, make sure to tell your doctor how you were hurt, when you were hurt, where the injury took place, and who else was present. Tell him about the pain and symptoms that you have been experiencing. Also be sure to describe in detail all of the body parts that you have injured. Even if one injury hurts more than the others, make sure to tell your doctor about every single injury.

If you have been hurt by repetitive-work activities, be specific about the number of movements that you make. For instance, tell your doctor about the number of times you lift or grip things in an hour, day, or week.

If you have been hurt by exposure at work, whether it is to a hot, humid environment, chemicals, or any other environmental condition, be specific when you tell your doctor about the pain and symptoms that you have due to that exposure.

If you leave work and become better, and then return to work and experience an increase in your symptoms, be specific when you tell your doctor about any changes in your condition.

It is important to be accurate and honest the first time that you seek treatment with your doctor, for both your health and your workers’ compensation claim.

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Suicide – Recognize the Signs Before It’s Too Late

Today’s post comes from guest author Leonard Jernigan from The Jernigan Law Firm.

Several years ago I had declined to represent an injured truck driver until his wife called me and said she found a suicide note and asked me to reconsider. I did and was able to help him. I believe there is a connection between suicide and workers’ compensation. Clearly the pain of an injury, coupled with the stress of not being able to return to work can cause tremendous psychological strain.

One Texas doctor actually testified at a legislative hearing that prolonged decisions on workers’ compensation coverage in the state had lead to an increase in work’ comp’ related suicides in recent years. “The incidence of those reports has been astonishingly high compared to five years ago,” he told the legislators, “when they were, to my knowledge, nonexistent.”

Below are some signs that you or somebody you know may be at risk. This list of warning signals comes from the website of the American Psychological Association. If you see any of these signs, seek help from a doctor or therapist, or call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Continue reading

deposition

3 Steps To Prepare For Your Deposition

Other than testifying at trial, giving a deposition is the most important thing an injured worker does. Putting your best foot forward during a deposition takes work by both attorney and client. Preparation is essential to help our clients avoid becoming confused and, in the worst case, accidentally saying something that is not true. To prevent this, we take great care and plenty of time preparing clients for depositions.

Here are three steps we take to ensure our clients are prepared:

    1. We send a letter telling the client of the deposition scheduling. The letter includes:
      1. A “Deposition Handout” (copy available on request) which explains what a deposition is and some simple rules the client should follow, and
      2. A copy of the clients’ interrogatory answers to refresh our clients about what they remembered when the accident was fresh in their minds.

The letter tells the client that the deposition is very important and that they must contact our office to schedule a first conference with us, and, in the meanwhile, review the interrogatories and Deposition Handout.

  1. At the first conference:
    • We discuss procedural matters, such as how to break down every question so our client does not get confused.
    • We make sure the client is reviewing their interrogatory answers.
    • We reinforce that telling the truth is the only way to go, and that even exaggerating is counter-productive.
    • We identify the likely problem points for deposition, such as statute of limitations, notice, setting the date of the injury, knowing work restrictions, and the propensities of opposing counsel.
    • We then schedule a second conference to be held immediately before deposition.
  2. At the second conference, for at least an hour before deposition, we meet with our client and cover areas of questioning that are expected to be problematic and ensure they fully prepared and comfortable.

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Who Calls The Shots, Your Employer-Selected Doctor Or The Insurance Company?

Insurance companies sometimes tell doctors that they will not pay for procedures that the doctor says are medically appropriate.

In Iowa, employers have the right to control an injured worker’s medical care. This means that if you are injured at work, your employer gets to send you to a doctor of their choosing. The doctors chosen by the employer are called “authorized treating physicians.” In theory, after an employer chooses their authorized treating physician, they are required to pay for any care that doctor believes is necessary to treat the work injury. In practice, the employer and their workers’ compensation insurance company often try to interfere with the care the injured worker is entitled to by refusing to pay for procedures or tests recommended by their handpicked doctor.

Typically, when an authorized doctor suggests an expensive course of care (like surgery) the first thing the doctor will do is check with the insurance company to make sure the surgery is going to be paid for. Instead of immediately scheduling the needed surgery, the doctor will wait until the insurance carrier agrees to pay for the procedure. Doctors do this so they don’t have to worry about how they are going to be paid. Asking for this unneeded authorization from the insurance company means the insurance company now has a say in determining what individual procedures are proper for the care of the work injury.

We often see injured workers whose injury was initially accepted by the employer until the doctor requests authorization for an expensive surgery. When faced with the additional cost of surgery, the insurance carrier denies the work injury hoping the injured worker will either forego surgery or try to pay for the surgery through other means, such as their personal health insurance.

This situation may also arise when the authorized doctor recommends expensive diagnostic procedures, like CT scans, or refers the injured worker to a specialist, for example a psychiatrist for depression related to the work injury.

To make sure your rights are protected, it’s often helpful to have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney on your side if you’re facing a situation where your employer is trying to interfere with the decisions of their handpicked doctor. Injured workers should get the care that their doctor, not an insurance company, determines is medically appropriate.

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Well-documented Expense Records Increase Value of Your M&T Reimbursement

Today’s post comes from guest author Michael Furdyna from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

While receiving medical treatment related to a workers’ compensation case, claimants often have additional expenses such as mileage, fuel costs, transportation fares, and out-of-pocket prescriptions. Yet many claimants don’t realize they are entitled to reimbursement for expenses they incur in obtaining treatment. Submitting information related to these expenses is an important part of the workers’ compensation process. Problems can arise, however, when incomplete or disorganized information is provided to an insurance carrier. This can result in delays and errors in receiving the proper amount to which they are entitled. Claimants can avoid these sorts of problems with small acts of diligence and record keeping.

Here are a few suggestions:

  • Save your receipts and keep a record of your doctor visits. Keeping a log and saving receipts incurred from specific doctor visits provides a “narrative” that makes it easier to tie together dates and expenses.
  • Make sure to use the correct form. The New York State WCB requires Continue reading
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Misdiagnosed Worker Can Amend The Cause Of Injury More Than 2 Years Later

Today’s post comes from guest author Matthew Funk from Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano.

The Appellate Division Third Department issued a decision (Searchfield v. Lowe’s Home Centers) that is interesting case because it pertains to the establishment of an injury that was originally misdiagnosed.

  • In October 2005, an employee was injured at work while lifting a hot water heater. As a result of the injury the employee went to the emergency room. He was diagnosed by an emergency room physician with myofascial strain of the legs and hips.
  • A November 2005 physician’s report diagnosed the claimant with hip/thigh sprain and sciatica. The later medical reports focused on the groin, lower back and leg pain.
  • In July 2006, a Law Judge established the claim for a work related injury to the claimant’s lower back. However, the employee continued to report worsening symptoms in his hip area.
  • In 2009, the claimant saw an orthopedic surgeon. The doctor performed a MRI of the right hip. The MRI revealed a right hip labral tear that required surgury. According to the surgeon the claim was originally misdiagnosed and the claimant had, in fact, sustained injuries to his right hip as a result of the October 2005 accident.
  • The claimant applied for a hearing to amend the claim for the right hip.
  • The Judge ruled that the right hip claim was time barred (pursuant to Workers’ Compensation Law Section 28). This states that a claim for a causally related condition must be made within two years of the date of accident.
  • On appeal the Board Panel reversed and the Appellate Division affirmed the Board Panel.

The Appellate Division stated that the early medical reports reflect initial concerns relating to the claimants hips. Also, there was supporting medical evidence that the claimant’s ongoing pain was the result of a labral tear in the right hip, a condition which is often misdiagnosed as a low back injury. The Court went on to add that the claimant could not have filed a claim for a causally related right hip injury at the time of the accident because it was not properly identified and diagnosed.

This case is important as it allowed the amendment of a claim for a serious injury that misdiagnosed early on in the case. You can find the entire court decision here.