Category Archives: workers comp basics

car-accident

Consider These Car Accident Tips to Avoid Missteps

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

No one ever intentionally plans to get in a car accident or get hurt at work. But unfortunately bad things sometimes happen in life. And a person’s response to those situations can sometimes affect what happens from a legal perspective. Also remember that if you travel as part of your job, or if traveling is your job, like in the case of truck drivers, vehicle accidents are often covered under workers’ compensation. Here are some recommended tips to avoid potential legal pitfalls later.

What to do when you’ve been in a car accident:

  1. Call the police (or 911 if necessary).
  2. Exchange information with the other driver (name, contact info, driver’s license number, license plate, auto insurance).
  3. Obtain witnesses: Get names and contact info for any witnesses even if the police have already spoken to that person. If possible, obtain written statements from willing witnesses.
  4. Gather evidence: Take pictures or videos of the accident scene, the damage to all vehicles, and any noticeable injuries.
  5. Write notes of the date, time, location, weather, how the accident happened, and any other details that you can remember (speed, traffic signals, turn signals, headlights, brake lights, cell phone usage, etc.).
  6. Go to your doctor: make sure to tell your doctor how you were injured, and be sure to discuss all injuries, even ones that seem insignificant at that time.
  7. Contact your insurance company, and report the accident. Your auto insurance will likely pay for at least some of your medical bills.
  8. Do not give a recorded statement without contacting a lawyer.

You should talk to a lawyer when you’ve been in a car accident IF:

  1. You don’t know what kind of compensation/money you are entitled to
  2. The insurance company is asking you for a recorded statement
  3. The insurance company denies your claim
  4. There is a question of which driver is at fault
  5. The police report is incomplete or inaccurate
  6. The other driver does not have insurance or does not have enough insurance coverage
  7. You have unpaid medical bills
  8. You have permanent disability or constant pain
  9. There are complicated legal or medical issues
  10. You have missed more than a few days of work

Do your best to drive defensively, and safe travels.

sad

Suicide – Recognize the Signs Before It’s Too Late

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

Mental health problems are an issue for every firm, across the nation, that represents injured and disabled people, whether with personal injury cases, workers’ compensation or Social Security claims. The delays inherent in the system – particularly the increased delays due to government belt-tightening – take a toll on our clients and, by extension, on all of us.

In addition to the links provided by Mr. Jernigan there are resources available for people in psychological need in your local community. If you or someone you know needs assistance with their fight in their case or claim, please feel free to contact Causey Law Firm for help.

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

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. Washington State claims can include conditions diagnosed after the initial filing of a claim, as well. Please feel free to contact us to discuss the specifics of your case if you are facing a similar situation.

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.

Factory_Surveillance

Should your doctor have access to surveillance videos of you?

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer from The Domer Law Firm. It is particularly relevant now, at a time when we are seeing a spike in the number of cases where surveillance video is being used to bring claims to a halt here in Washington State.

A dozen attorneys in Montana representing injured workers made headlines petitioning their Supreme Court to stop State fraud investigators sharing surveillance videos with doctors of worker’s compensation claimants. About 14,000 Montana residents are covered by the State Fund and the Fund’s Investigative Unit conducts video surveillance on about 500 claimants each year and shows the videos to claimants’ treating physicians. This practice raises questions about physician-patient privilege and patient privacy.

In Wisconsin and most other States, the physician-patient privilege is waived by an employee who reports a work-related injury. The waiver only extends, however, to any condition or complaint reasonably related to the work injury. Considerable debate sometimes arises over which treatment records are reasonably related to a claim. A broken toe, for example, is not likely relevant to an asthma condition but a prior Hepatitis-C claim may be. Employers and insurers may attempt to obtain records from a medical provider without a release, and practitioners must provide reports to the employer, insurer, employee, or Worker’s Comp Division within a reasonable time after written request.

The Fund’s Investigative Unit conducts video surveillance on about 500 claimants each year and shows the videos to claimants’ treating physicians… In Wisconsin and most other States, the physician-patient privilege is waived by an employee who reports a work-related injury. The waiver only extends, however, to any condition or complaint reasonably related to the work injury. 

Insurance carriers and employers also defend or deny worker’s compensation claims through surreptitiously obtained videos. The videos Continue reading

Talking-To-Doctor

Workers’ Comp Q&A: 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

facebook-friends-box

A Word Of Caution On Facebook

Today’s post comes from guest author Charlie Domer from The Domer Law Firm.

A word of caution to injured workers: use Facebook at your own risk. An Arkansas Court of Appeals has held that Facebook photos can be used to deny worker’s compensation to an injured worker. The photos showed a man drinking and partying at a time he claimed he was in excruciating pain. The Appeals Court found there was no abuse of discretion in allowing the photographs into evidence because they had a bearing on his credibility.

Our office routinely cautions injured workers against any Facebook postings after a work injury for just that reason. While clients may feel that this impinges on their “private” life, they need to be aware that the insurance company will scour the internet, past employment histories, and medical records for any information that can be used in defense of a claim. Whether or not the photos are related to the injury or the need for medical care, they can often affect client credibility. In fact, we have dismissed several claims because of Facebook postings—and had to salvage some settlements due to post-compromise social media postings! Tom Domer is one of the editors of the national magazine for the Workers Injury Law and Advocacy Group (WILG) called the Worker’s First Watch. This month’s issue contains an article (starting on page 37) on the dangers of social media and its use against injured workers and worker’s compensation proceedings (the link is to a PDF document).