If you injure yourself at work, it’s important that you seek medical treatment promptly and continue undergoing treatment for as long as you suffer pain and limitations from your injuries. This may seem obvious, but some injured workers are remiss in seeing doctors and it ends up causing them to lose their case. An example will illustrate the danger of waiting to get medical treatment for a work injury. Suppose you bend over at work to pick up a crate and feel a pop in your low back followed by severe pain. None of your co-workers is in the vicinity when this occurs. You take a few minutes to catch your breath and the pain subsides somewhat. You don’t say anything to your supervisor because you just started the job four months earlier and already received a warning for an attendance issue; you don’t want to make any waves by reporting a work injury. You work the rest of your shift although you’re in pain, especially when you’re picking up the crates. You’re still in pain that night, so you take Ibuprofen and put ice on your back. The next day, you consider making an appointment with your family doctor but decide against it, hoping your pain will go away.
Over the next two weeks, you continue to work, regularly lifting crates that weigh up to twenty pounds. Your back pain persists and now has extended into your right leg. Your supervisor tells you that your production is down the last two weeks. You apologize, but still don’t mention the injury. Finally, after another week, you have had enough. You go to your family doctor, who refers you to an orthopedic surgeon for an evaluation. He gives you a note taking you out of work and a prescription for an MRI to your low back. You give the out-of-work note to your supervisor and tell him that the injury occurred three weeks earlier when you were lifting a crate. You submit a workers’ compensation claim. In determining whether to accept or deny your claim, the claims adjuster for the workers’ compensation insurance company may be skeptical that you did not seek any medical treatment, nor report the injury to your supervisor, for three weeks after he told you that your production has been declining. The adjuster may suspect that you were angry about being criticized for your decreased production and are retaliating by pursuing a workers’ compensation claim.
If your claim is denied – and workers’ compensation insurance companies are always looking for a way to deny a claim – you will have to hire a lawyer to file a Claim Petition with the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation. The workers’ compensation judge that your case is assigned to may have similar suspicions as the claims adjuster which could lead to the denial of your petition.
The point we’re making is that if you hurt yourself at work, even though you may think it is a minor injury and will resolve soon, it is in your best interest to report it promptly to your supervisor and seek medical treatment. Under the scenario just described, if you had reported your back injury the same day or the next day, your supervisor probably would have had you complete an incident report and referred you to see one of your employer’s designated workers’ compensation physicians for an evaluation. By acting swiftly in reporting your injury and seeking medical treatment, you will substantially increase the likelihood that the insurance company – or the workers’ compensation judge – determines that you sustained a work-related injury, entitling you to benefits.
In the same vein, it’s important for you to undergo medical treatment during the pendency of a claim or your benefits could be in jeopardy. Let’s say that your claim has been accepted but then a year later, you are evaluated by a doctor for the insurance company who is of the opinion that you have fully recovered from your work injury. They file a petition to terminate your benefits which goes before a workers’ compensation judge. Let’s suppose that even though you still have pain daily and don’t think you could do your job, you have hardly been getting treatment for six months. You have had just a couple doctors’ appointments, discontinued physical therapy, and rarely take pain medication. The judge might draw the conclusion that because you haven’t been treating much, you must be better and can go back to work. To avoid the judge reaching that conclusion, you must follow up with your doctors on a regular basis. If your doctor recommends that you continue with physical therapy, you should do it. If a series of injections is recommended, you should consider pursuing that option.
The experienced workers’ compensation lawyers at Pearson Koutcher Law will tell you that a big key to being awarded workers’ compensation benefits, and continuing to receive those benefits, is consistently receiving medical treatment, starting from the time that your injury occurs. Call our office and receive a free, comprehensive evaluation about your case from one of our top-notch lawyers.
Let us put our decades of experience to work for you, helping you navigate the complexities of the Workers’ Compensation laws.