Category Archives: workers comp qa

doctor_looking_angry

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.

back-pain

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.  

moving_truck

Can I Move To Another State If I Have A Work’ Comp’ Claim?

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

Question: Can I move to another state even though I have a workers’ compensation claim in New York?

Answer: Absolutely! Many claimants move to other states during the course of their workers’ compensation claims.

Here are the top five things to consider when moving to another state:

  1. Tell your workers’ compensation attorney that you are moving, and update your contact information such as telephone number and address.
  2. Find a doctor in your new state that handles workers’ compensation claims in New York state. A simple Google search should give you several hits. Be sure to ask if the doctor handles workers’ compensation claims for claimants.
  3. As there is often confusion at the initial stages of treatment as to why a patient is seeing the doctor, be sure to tell your doctor that you have an ongoing workers’ compensation claim in New York for which you need continuing treatment.
  4. Have your Notice of Decision authorizing medical treatment handy! This is how the doctor knows that he or she is allowed to treat you for your work-related injury. If you do not have a copy of that Notice of Decision or have lost it, ask your workers’ compensation attorney to send you a copy ASAP.
  5. Be proactive. This is your workers’ compensation claim: you have a right to your medical records. Ask for them after each visit! Give your workers’ compensation attorney the doctor’s contact information, including telephone number, fax number, and address. Get in touch with your workers’ compensation attorney if the doctor is having any difficulty getting your medical treatment paid for by the insurance carrier.

Talking-To-Doctor

Does going back to work ruin my case?

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

QUESTION: Does going back to work ruin my case?

ANSWER: Not at all!

This question comes up a lot in Workers’ Compensation cases. When someone is injured they have to balance their personal and professional obligations while including their injury as a new variable. This is completely understandable. Oftentimes people want to try to get back to work but are not sure if their body will hold up. This uncertainty can cast a shadow over everything a person has to consider when they have a work injury.

First and foremost you should speak to your doctor and find out what you are physically capable of. While your injury may be improving, you may not be able to return at 100%. If your doctor clears you to return to work Continue reading