By Arthur A. Borella and Richard M. Amsbaugh
Most workers’ compensation cases that are disputed have one or more problems in common. You can minimize those problems by following certain rules when you get injured at work.
1. Report any injury, pain, or problem immediately.
Most people have a tendency to downplay their own sprains, strains, and other sudden muscular aches that result from work activity. They figure it will go away in an hour or so or a day or two. Usually, it will — but there is a significant number that won’t. Nothing is more suspicious to an employer or insurer than a claim of injury that no one saw, made a day, after a weekend, or even later after it happened. That is especially true if the injury occurs near the end of a shift or just before the weekend or vacation etc.
2. Give an accurate account of what caused the pain.
You need to be specific and consistent in reporting how the incident occurred. You should state what happened in the same detail and manner when you report it to your employer and to each doctor, nurse, adjustor, etc. Many incidents may occur in ways or using equipment that is not familiar to the person you are reporting to. Fight the tendency to let them just summarize it in their own words, or put words in your mouth — be specific with each person you tell.
3. Tell your employer, doctors, and adjustors all the places that hurt.
Many accidents can injure multiple muscles, tendons, and areas of your body. Fight the tendency to just talk about the one that hurts the most. In the days or weeks that follow it may turn out to be the injury that at first hurt the least which becomes the most nagging problem.
4. Beware of “small talk” to doctors, nurses, insurance people.
Everyone you are going to deal with is trained to write down everything you say. Almost all “small talk” with such people comes back to haunt you because they write down their version of what you said. Don’t tell jokes — especially racial, ethnic, religious, etc. They might not be offended, but someone else reading it later will be. Don’t talk about lawyers, suing, getting back at anyone, etc. Don’t talk about non-work activities, vacations, trips, plans, etc. unless it is to report your inability or difficulty in such things.
5. See doctors of your own choice.
You are entitled to pick your own doctor after 10 days. You should. Notify your employer or WC insurer that you intend to. The company clinics and doctors are generally not specialists and not especially patient-oriented. Find someone with your best interests at heart — not your employers’ or insurers’.
6. Be cooperative.
Most adjusters and insurance doctors will respond better to you if you are polite, or at least civil, rather than adversarial. Don’t exaggerate pain or problems. You’ll damage your claim much more by thinking you know what they want to hear or see than if you just tell it exactly as it is. Doctors have all kinds of tests to determine a diagnosis. Not every touch or movement is supposed to hurt. If it doesn’t, don’t say it does because you think it should.
7. Read what you sign.
Make sure any medical authorizations you sign state who they’re getting records from. Cross out the language you don’t agree to. It should have an expiration date of not more than 90 days. It should not be able to be valid as a photocopy. It should be for records only, not “information” or allow them to talk to your doctor about you.
8. Be aware that you may be investigated.
Insurers often hire investigators to talk to your neighbors, co-workers, etc. about you to ask them what they see you doing or hear you say. They may stake you out and videotape or photograph you. They may have someone pretend to be someone or something they aren’t to try to get you to do or say something in person or on the phone.
The partners of the Law Firm of Borella & Amsbaugh, P.C., Arthur A. Borella, and Richard M. Amsbaugh have a combined 55 years of legal experience. We represent individuals in Worker’s Disability Compensation claims, Social Security Disability claims, as well as all types of personal injury claims. For a free consultation, please contact us at the number listed below.
ANY SUGGESTIONS CONCERNING FUTURE TOPICS TO BE DISCUSSED IN THIS COLUMN CAN BE MAILED TO ARTHUR BORELLA AT 40400 E. ANN ARBOR ROAD, SUITE 201, PLYMOUTH, MI 48170-4590. IN ADDITION, MR. BORELLA CAN BE REACHED BY E-MAIL AT firstname.lastname@example.org, OR BY PHONE AT 1-800-553-3024.