By: Stacy J. Crider
I recently attended a national conference aimed to educate different professionals involved in workers’ compensation claims. Doctors, attorneys, adjusters, nurse case managers, and administrative law judges were all in attendance. This conference was different than most as there were so many different professions involved. The perspectives given were often from a doctor or judge or even defense attorney, which is a very different point of view from me as a Plaintiff lawyer. I would like to briefly discuss three things I learned from this conference in order to help you understand the process of getting compensation and care as well as making your claim stronger.
First of all, social media is starting to become a major ally for the workers’ compensation insurance companies. If an injured worker posts a picture or status on their Facebook page and it in any way is discrepant from what the injured person is alleging, they will use this to deny your claim. For example, a man who alleges his knee “popped” at work later (within a few days) posts a picture of himself at the gym pushing weights with his legs on Facebook. This resulted in his claim being denied. I cannot stress this enough– not only should you have strict privacy settings on your social media, but you should also refrain from posting anything about your condition, you injury or anything contradictory to your condition while litigation is in motion. Otherwise, the other side will likely use it against you.
Secondly, a common complaint I get from clients is that they were not given a MRI when they first sought treatment. During a doctor-run session at this conference I learned why. In cases of back pain, doctors are being taught to avoid early imaging. The reason for this is because many cases of back pain resolve on their own after 1-3 months so doctors start out with conservative treatments like physical therapy and/or pain medications. When it is clear that the pain is not going to resolve on its own, a MRI may be performed to see if more invasive procedures are indicated. Very rarely, and typically only when certain “red flags” are present, does a doctor immediately order a MRI and this does not mean that you are getting bad care, this is likely the way the doctor would proceed whether or not workers’ compensation is involved.
Lastly, workers’ compensation cases are not exempt from the recently heightened opioid medication restrictions. It is well known that these highly addictive pain medications are dangerous and the government has made it a priority to limit who is prescribed these medications and for how long. This of course, has an effect on how workers’ compensation adjusters and doctors choose how to care for you. Many times, I get asked if the insurance company has to continue paying for pain medication once the case is over. In certain instances, a doctor will state that it is likely that the injured will need ongoing narcotic medication to deal with the pain and in these instances it may be possible to get compensation for this future medical treatment. However, more and more, it is becoming difficult to get a doctor to state that this is medically necessary, especially for the strongest of these pain medications.
The biggest take away from this conference is that everyone involved in a workers’ compensation case has their own personal perspective that decides how they handle each situation. It is important for us, as the plaintiffs, to be patient, calm, and as truthful as possible throughout the process. We need to keep in mind that this is very much a process that has many players all with their own interests involved. But it is also important to protect your claim and make sure someone is advocating for you. Hankey Marks & Crider is currently accepting new workers’ compensation cases. If you have been injured at work and do not have an attorney representing you, please contact our office and make an appointment for your free consultation. Make sure someone knowledgeable in the field is looking out for you.