Are you navigating the complexities of an Iowa workers' compensation claim? It's crucial to stay vigilant and avoid common pitfalls that could hurt your case. From organizational mishaps to communication blunders and legal oversights, here's a guide to steering clear of trouble and ensuring a successful resolution with the help of an experienced Iowa workers comp attorney.
Stay Organized to Stay Ahead
In the aftermath of a work-related injury staying organized with all the chaos is important. Create a dedicated accident file to store all important documents, appointments, and records. By following the Iowa workers’ compensation laws and avoiding two common mistakes, rescheduling doctor appointments and discarding paperwork, you can prevent unnecessary delays and strengthen your case.
Navigating Social Media Minefields
While social media may seem harmless, it can undermine your workers' comp claim. Refrain from discussing your case on public platforms and exercise caution when posting content. Misinterpreting and using photos of normal activities, like playing sports, can harm you. Adjust privacy settings to limit access, but remain vigilant as insurance adjusters may still attempt to access your posts.
Communication is Key
Clear and concise communication is essential to the success of your claim. Avoid oversharing details with non-essential parties and refrain from downplaying or exaggerating your injuries. Be honest and transparent with your lawyer and medical professionals, as misleading information can be detrimental. Additionally, refrain from engaging in physical activities not approved by your doctor, as this could undermine the severity of your injury.
Common Mistakes In Iowa Workers Comp Case
Failing to Seek Immediate Medical Attention After a Traumatic Event
The injured worker is always responsible for proving that the injury occurred 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 work accident or you are not hurt badly enough to deserve compensation.
Do not ignore signs of pain, even small ones. Report your work injury and see a doctor as soon as possible, as minor injuries can always get worse. The first argument by the insurance company’s attorney to the judge should not be, “You did not bother seeing a doctor until three days after the work injury.”
Talking With Your Medical Providers About Your Work Injury Claim
The job of your medical providers is to focus on your injuries and provide medical treatment. 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.
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.
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" etc.
Attempting to Hide Your Health History From Your Doctor
Your doctors and other medical providers will usually ask if you have had any injury to the same area of the body before. It is important, to be honest when answering these questions because doctors 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. Remember, all of your prior medical records will eventually be available to the insurance company and their lawyer.
If you provide your doctors with incomplete or inaccurate information, their medical opinions could be rejected by the insurance company and the workers' compensation judge because they did not know about your prior problems. The insurance company's lawyer will attack your credibility with anything they can find and you do not want to give them extra ammunition.
Showing up Late or Not Attending Appointments
The insurance company, their lawyers, and perhaps even a workers' compensation judge will review your medical records. When you fail to attend an appointment, your medical record will indicate "No show" or "DNS," which stands for did not show. While you may have a valid reason for missing your appointment, these entries still reflect poorly.
More than one instance of "No Show" or "DNS" not only displeases your medical providers but may also suggest a lack of commitment to your medical treatment. Moreover, showing up late or missing appointments altogether costs your medical providers money and can lead to their dissatisfaction. Doctors who are displeased with their patients often do not make favorable witnesses. If you need to reschedule or cancel an appointment, please notify the office at least 24 hours in advance.
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 important. If there is no mention in your records of difficulties performing your job, it is unlikely that the insurance company and/or the judge will just take your word for it later on.
Taking notes with you to your appointments to make sure you tell medical providers everything can be extremely helpful. Work problems caused by an injury may be treatable and they should be noted in your medical records.
Not Having Your Pain Properly Documented in Your Medical Records
Pain is something that your medical providers cannot feel, see, or touch, but are required to document accurately in your records. Insurance companies and juries will not believe that you are in pain just because you say so. For them to take your pain seriously, they need to read about it in your medical records.
When insurance companies and judges review your records, they will be looking to see how soon you reported pain after an injury, how long you continued to report the pain, and how severe it was. One effective way to ensure that your specific pain and limitations are accurately recorded is to write them out beforehand and provide your doctor with a copy at your appointment. However, it's crucial not to exaggerate your pain.
Doctors are trained to look for inconsistencies, and exaggeration could lead to negative notes in your medical records. Additionally, during treatment, doctors and physical therapists may ask you to rate your pain on a scale of "1" to "10." Remember that a "10" represents the worst imaginable pain, such as torture or surgery without anesthesia, and few people have experienced pain higher than an "8." Keeping this pain scale in mind when describing your pain will help ensure accurate documentation in your medical records.
Not Taking Medications as Prescribed
Doctors prescribe a particular type of medication for a specific time period for good reason, and it's important to adhere to their recommendations. However, if you experience unwanted side effects from a medication, it's crucial to communicate with your doctor.
Rather than stopping the medication on your own, which can have negative consequences, contact your doctor to discuss your concerns. Some medications need to be tapered off, and abruptly stopping them can be harmful. Additionally, failing to follow your doctor's orders reflects poorly on your commitment to your treatment and can negatively impact your claim.
Stopping Medical Treatment Too Soon or Not Going Consistently
While no one wants to imagine that their injury is permanent, failing to continue treatment will not make it disappear. Judges, like everyone else, may assume that ceasing medical care means you're healed. They may think, "If I were still in pain, I'd seek help." Even though this might not be true, it's a common human response to the risk of lasting injury.
Similarly, significant gaps between treatments, such as a month or more, can be used against you, implying you've healed from the initial injury or suffered a new, undisclosed one. Your doctor might refer you to a specialist for additional treatment.
If you have an injury that is affecting your ability to function, you should seek medical treatment until you are healed or until a doctor tells you that there is nothing more that can be done to improve your condition. If you are still suffering and your doctor tells you to "come back as needed" or "call me if you have any questions," you should ask how long you should wait to call if you continue to have pain and disability.
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 require this information to obtain your records. It's also crucial to retain copies of work excuses, restrictions, referrals, and other orders given to you. Keeping a file of all materials provided to you by the doctors will ensure that you can provide all the necessary information to your lawyer at the appropriate time.
Failing to Follow Recommendations for Treatment of Anxiety, Depression, and Related Conditions
Pain, limited activities, and disability following an injury can often lead to anxiety and depression. These psychological conditions are as real as physical injuries and require appropriate medical care and treatment.
If you're experiencing anxiety or depression due to your injury, it's crucial to inform your doctors and seek appropriate treatment. Failure to follow treatment recommendations for these conditions may hinder your compensation claim, as psychological injuries caused by the work incident can be compensable. Ensure you seek treatment for these types of injuries to address your physical and mental well-being.
Steer Clear of Legal Pitfalls
Choosing the right Iowa workers comp attorney is paramount to your case's success. Prioritize attorneys with proven experience and seek references to gauge their effectiveness. While your attorney will handle the bulk of responsibilities, remain actively involved.
The Iowa workers’ comp attorney team at Walker, Billingsley & Bair works hard to level the field between injured Iowans and insurance companies. If you need immediate legal assistance contact Walker, Billingsley & Bair, call 641-792-3595, or use our LiveChat feature by clicking here 24 hours a day/7 days per week. You can also order our FREE book for Iowa accident victims; The Legal Insider’s Guide to Iowa Car Accidents: 7 Secrets to Not Wreck Your Case.