Whether you decide to hire us as your attorneys or not, we want you to be prepared in dealing with your medical providers after a work injury. Here are 10 Costly Mistakes to Avoid:
1. Failing to See a Doctor Immediately
It is your responsibility to prove that you were injured at work. If you have any pain or problems caused by your job, you need to immediately report the injury and ask for medical care. Often insurance companies, and sometimes judges, believe that if you do not seek immediate medical attention, then your condition may not be related to the accident. Even relatively minor pain can lead to big problems later, so see a doctor as soon as possible. The first argument by the insurance company’s attorney to the judge should not be, “Mr./Mrs. _________ did not bother seeing a doctor until three days after the work injury.”
2. Talking With Your Medical Providers About Your Claims
The job of your medical providers is to focus on your injuries and provide medical treatment. In order to treat you, the medical providers do not have to know about your workers' compensation claim or if you have an attorney. Sometimes they will ask and you should tell the truth, but your concerns about your case and/or your legal issues should be avoided. Whatever you say in confidence to your medical providers is not confidential when you bring a claim for injuries. Basically, anything and everything you tell your medical providers will end up in your medical records that the insurance company and eventually a judge will get to see. However, keep in mind that you will need to tell your medical providers how you were hurt at work. For example, "I was lifting at work and my back went out on August 15, 2015," etc.
3. Attempting to Hide Your Health History From Your Doctor
Your doctors and other medical providers will usually ask if you have previously had any injury to the same area of the body where you are having problems. You need to be honest and not try to hide prior problems because they will eventually surface. Your doctors will use your past medical history to diagnose and treat you. If you provide incomplete or inaccurate information it can not only negatively affect the quality of your care, but will likely also hurt your legal case. Eventually, all of your prior medical records will be made available to the insurance company. Also, be honest when describing the work injury to your medical providers. Do not tell them that you were taken by ambulance unless you really were. The insurance company and their lawyers will attack your credibility with anything they can find and you do not want to give them extra ammunition.
4. Showing up Late or Not Attending Medical Appointments and Therapy
The insurance company, their lawyers and eventually perhaps a judge will review your medical records. When you fail to attend an appointment, your medical record will say “No show” or “DNS” meaning did not show. While you may have a valid reason for missing your appointment, these still look bad. More than one “No Show” or “DNS” will not only make your medical providers not happy, but may also make it look like you did not care about your medical treatment. Showing up late or, worse yet, not showing up at all costs your medical providers money because they could have seen another patient, which makes them upset. Doctors who are upset with their patients often do not make good witnesses for their patients. If you need to reschedule or cancel an appointment, please call at least 24 hours before it is scheduled. You do not want to hear from the insurance company’s lawyer, “Mr./Mrs. _________ missed three appointments and for two of the ones he/she went to he/she was late. Did he/she really care about his/her injuries?”
5. Not Informing Your Medical Providers That Your Injuries Are Affecting Your Work
Your medical records are the heart and lungs of your workers' compensation claim and what is in them is very important. If there is no mention in your records of problems doing your job, it is unlikely that the insurance company and/or the judge will just take your word for it later on. Therefore, if your injury is negatively impacting your ability to work, you need to document this by telling your health care providers. Taking notes with you to your appointments in order for you to make sure to tell your medical providers everything can be very helpful.
To learn the other common costly mistakes, request our Iowa Workers' Compensation book which includes the Iowa Injured Workers' Bills of Rights, How Your Work Injury Can Affect Your Job and much more...
6. Having Your Pain Improperly Documented in Your Medical Records
Pain is something that your medical providers cannot feel, see or touch, but are required to document in your records. In order for the insurance company and a judge to believe that you were in pain, they will want to read about it in your medical records. They will be looking to see how quickly you reported pain after the accident, where the pain was, how bad it was and how long it lasted. One way to make sure that your pain and limitations makes it into your busy doctor’s chart is to write it out beforehand and provide your doctor with a copy of it at your appointment. Your doctors are trained to look for things that are not consistent, so please do not exaggerate. If you say that your pain is horrible, but you are sitting comfortably in the office you will likely end up with a negative note in your records.
Pain scale- While you are being treated it is likely that a doctor and/or physical therapist will ask you what your pain is like on a scale of “1” to “10”. A “10” is the worst imaginable pain such as being tortured, operated upon without anesthesia, etc. Few people have suffered pain more than an “8” during their lifetime, so please keep this pain scale in mind when being asked questions about it.
7. Not Taking Medications as Prescribed
Doctors prescribe a particular type of medication for a particular time period for good reason and you should follow your doctor’s recommendations. However, if you think a medication is giving you unwanted side effects, you need to call and/or schedule an appointment because your doctor may be able to switch you to another medication. You should not just stop taking the medication on your own because some medications need to be tapered off and also it looks bad when you have to admit that you did not follow your doctor’s orders.
8. Stopping Medical Treatment Too Soon or Not Going For Weeks at a Time
While no one wants to imagine that their injury is permanent, failing to continue to treat will not make it go away. Judges are people and it seems that everyone is a Monday morning quarterback. Therefore, the insurance company and the judge will often believe that when a person stops seeking medical treatment that they are healed. They will tell themselves that “If I was still having problems, then I would have gone to the doctor." While this is probably not true, it is the way that humans deal with the risk we all face of sustained permanent injury. Likewise, significant gaps between treatments of say a month or more will be used against you, suggesting that you healed from the original injury and may have sustained a new one that you have not disclosed. If you are still having problems, but your doctor has nothing more to offer so he/she tells you “you are released” or “come back as needed” this means that if your problems do not go away within a few weeks you need to get back to see your doctor. Your doctor may be able to refer you on to a specialist for additional treatment.
9. Failing to Keep Records
You need to keep business cards, bills and/or other records from every medical provider that you see. Your attorney will need this information in order to obtain your records. You should also keep copies of work excuses, restrictions, referrals and other orders given to you. If you need to take the work excuse to your employer, make sure that you also keep a copy, which will help with your case later on.
10. Failing to Follow Recommendations for Treatment of Anxiety and/or Depression
Pain, limited activities and disability often cause anxiety and depression following an injury. Conditions like anxiety and depression are just as real as a medical condition that you can see on an x-ray like a broken leg. However, most people cannot overcome these conditions without appropriate medical care and treatment. You can be compensated for psychological conditions caused by your injury, so it is important that you tell your doctors if you are having problems and seek appropriate treatment. Unless your mental health issues are properly diagnosed and treated, it is unlikely that you will be compensated for them.
We Can Help
If you or someone you know has been injured at work, Walker, Billingsley & Bair is here to help answer your questions. Iowa Workers' Compensation Attorney Corey J. L. Walker practices primarily in workers’ compensation law and is dedicated to giving your case the personal attention that it deserves. He offers a book about Iowa workers' compensation at no cost, risk or obligation. The book is called “Iowa Workers’ Compensation - An Insider’s Guide to Work Injuries” and includes 7 Deadly Mistakes to Avoid if You are Hurt at Work. To order your copy, click on the link above or Call Now 1-800-707-2552 (ext. 811) (24-Hour Recorded Message). Corey offers his Iowa work comp. book at no cost because he has seen too many hard-working Iowans from across the state of Iowa who were hurt on the job make mistakes which cost them thousands of dollars. Iowans hurt at work are beginning to realize that the insurance company is not there to help them and that they should learn about Iowa's workers’ compensation laws.