08 Oct 10 Mistakes Not to Make After a Workers’ Compensation Injury
10 Mistakes Not to Make After a Workers’ Compensation Injury
(1) Not reporting the injury to your job
People fear they will be fired or retaliated against. It is against the law for an employer to retaliate against you, however, it still happens. In those situations, the employee may have an employment case separate from the workers’ compensation case. By failing to report an injury, the employee could expose himself to statute of limitations or notice issues, which may prevent the ability to bring a workers’ compensation case at a later date.
(2) Not seeking medical care
In Missouri, the employer, through their insurance company, gets to direct an employee’s treatment, which means the employee must go where the employer/insurer requests. The employee has the right to a second opinion at the employee’s own expense, but this should be reserved for situations where there is a genuine dispute regarding the medical care.
(3) Getting medical care on your own through private health insurance
If an employee tells a medical professional the employee was hurt at work, most providers should immediately stop providing care and instruct you to get medical care through workers’ compensation. Some employees do not disclose the injury as work related. This causes issues later if the employee decides he or she now wants to make a workers’ compensation claim. Their own statements about how the injury occurred will be used against the employee.
(4) Rushing medical care in order to get back to work
This is the only opportunity for potentially a full recovery. If an employee rushes through medical care and does not receive the proper treatment, the employee may not fully heal, which could cause complications later. It is best to complete all medical treatment as recommended by the doctor.
(5) Believing the employer is loyal to you because the employee has been there X number of years
This is perhaps the toughest one for employees to understand but, unfortunately, we no longer live in an environment where employers reward loyalty. I frequently get calls from employees who say they did not pursue a case or rushed back because they were trying to be a good employee. However, as soon as the employee was unable to perform the essential job functions, the employer no longer had a need for the employee. The sense of betrayal is real, however, now the employee is in a bind because he or she still experiences complications from the work injury.
(6) Not getting surgery if it is recommended by the doctor
Surgery is scary and there can be complications, however, if an employee needs surgery, it is probably a good idea to move forward, especially if the employee intends to continue working. If an employee refuses to get the surgery and gets released to work at maximum medical improvement, the employee is expected to be able to perform their job duties. If the employee is unable to fully work and unwilling to get the surgery, this may result in losing their job. Getting a surgery also typically increases the value of the settlement at the end of the case.
(7) Believing the workers’ compensation doctor is anything but a “company doc”
While there are some exceptions, typically, workers’ compensation doctors are heavily incentivized to err on the side of the employer/insurer. Think about it – the employee is the patient but the employer/insurer is the one paying. Moreover, the doctor typically receives numerous referrals from the insurance company. Unfortunately, while this creates a conflict of interest, the workers’ compensation system appears to ignore it. This results in employees sometimes not getting the treatment they need.
(8) Trusting the nurse case manager
People assume the nurse case manager from the insurance company is on their side. Unfortunately, that is not the case. The nurse’s job is to advocate for the employer/insurer, which means rushing the employee back to work in order to save costs. Doctors are known to tell an employee one thing, discuss the case with the nurse case manager and then accelerate the release of the employee moments later as a result of the conversation with the nurse.
(9) Quitting your job
The job may start treating the employee poorly or the employee may not be able to do their job, so the employee quits. This is not advisable because any potential new job is not required to accommodate any restrictions from the workers’ compensation injury. The old job is required to accommodate any restrictions.
(10) Not hiring a lawyer
This one may seem biased, however, I typically point out two things – lawyers like me would not have a job unless we brought value to workers’ compensation cases. If we did not, people would simply cut us out. However, the non-biased confirmation of this is on the Missouri Attorney General’s website because workers’ compensation is through the State of Missouri. On the website, there is an article confirming employees who hire a workers’ compensation lawyer typically recover more in benefits (medical care, time off work and a settlement at the end of the case). Moreover, while there is a fee for hiring a lawyer, an employee can focus on treatment and recovery and allow the lawyer’s expertise to handle all the other issues, including dealing with the insurance company.
I hope this list is helpful and will help you avoid making some of the common mistakes we see at the office. If you have any questions, please contact our office for a free consultation.
Tarun B. Rana, Esq.
Rana Law Group
655 Craig Road, Suite 252
St. Louis, MO 63141