Iowans injured at work are often overwhelmed and unsure of how to proceed with their case. Here are 10 common mistakes injured workers make and how they can be prevented. To learn more, order a copy of our FREE Book entitled “Iowa Workers’ Compensation- An Insider’s Guide to Work Injuries”.
1. Failing to Seek Immediate Medical Attention After a Traumatic Event
The injured worker is always responsible for proving that he or she was injured and that the injuries arose out of and in the course of employment. Insurance companies and judges often believe that if you are not hurt badly enough to seek immediate medical attention, then 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.
2. Failing to Fully Disclose Your Health History to Your Doctor
A health care provider will usually ask if you had any injury or sickness before your current problem. It is important to be honest when answering these questions because doctors use your past medical history to diagnose and treat you. Providing incomplete information can impact the quality of the medical care you receive and the outcome of your case. Trying to hide prior injuries or sickness from your doctor will not only affect your treatment, but may 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 same advice goes for describing the work injury. Do not tell your doctor that you were knocked unconscious for 10 minutes if witnesses tell you that you were talking, but you just don't remember the conversation. The insurance company's lawyer will attack your credibility with anything they can.
3. Missing or Showing up Late for Medical Appointments and Therapy
As mentioned, the insurance company, their lawyers and perhaps even a workers' compensation judge will get to see your medical records. When you skip a medical appointment, your record just says "DNS" meaning did not show or "No show". Excuses - no matter how valid - usually do not make it into the record. More than one or two "DNS" or "No show" entries could make it look like you were not committed to getting better. Skipping medical appointments or showing up late can also irritate your doctor. Irritated doctors do not make good witnesses for their patients. If you need to cancel, call well in advance and reschedule. You do not want the insurance company's lawyer saying, "It must not have hurt that much, he did not even show up for his appointments."
4. Failing to get Your Pain Accurately Documented in Medical Records
Insurance companies and juries will not believe that you are in pain just because you say so. They need to read about your pain 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 help make sure your specific pain and limitations do make their way into a busy doctor's chart is to write it out beforehand and give it to him at your office visit. Again, do not exaggerate your pain. Doctors are extensively trained in looking for things that are not consistent and if you say your pain is horrible, but you are sitting comfortably on the examination table then there is likely to be a negative office note written in your medical records.
Pain scale- During your course of treatment it is likely that a doctor or physical therapist will ask you to rate your pain on a scale of "1" to "10" with "10" being highest. A "10" would be your worst imaginable pain, (e.g. pain in which you are constantly screaming, being tortured, being operated upon without anesthesia, etc.) Very few people have suffered pain more than a "7" or "8" during their lifetime. Please keep this in mind when answering questions about your pain level.
5. Failing to Inform Your Doctor if Your Injury is Affecting Your Ability to Work
Insurance companies and juries will not believe that your injury affects your ability to work just because you say so. If your injury is affecting your ability to work, it is important to tell this to your health care provider. Work problems caused by an injury may be treatable and they should be noted in your medical records. Again, bringing notes with you to use to make sure you tell the doctor everything you need to can be helpful.
6. Talking With Your Doctor About Your Work Injury Claim or Legal Advice
A doctor's job is to focus on your medical condition. In order to do that job, a doctor does not have to know about your workers' compensation claim or your attorney. Sharing your legal issues or concerns with a medical provider is not necessary and should be avoided as it can create problems. If the doctor asks you if you have an attorney you must be honest with him/her. Remember that whatever you say in confidence to your doctor or other medical providers is not confidential when you bring a claim for work injuries.
7. Failing to Take Medications as Prescribed
There is a reason why doctors prescribe a particular type of medication for a particular time period. You should follow your doctor's recommendation until your doctor tells you something different. If you think a medication is making your muscles ache or your stomach hurt, say so; side effects are common, and your doctor can usually switch you to another drug. Do not put yourself in the position where you have to admit that you chose not to follow your doctor's advice. This can be devastating to your claim.
8. Stopping Medical Treatment Too Soon
Insurance companies and juries often believe if a person stops seeking medical treatment for an injury, the injury must be healed. They also believe that significant gaps between treatments suggest that you healed from one injury and must have suffered a new one unrelated to the first. 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.
9. Failing to Follow Treatment Recommendations Related to Depression or Anxiety
Often pain and/or disability can trigger depression and anxiety. Psychological conditions like depression and anxiety are just as real as broken bones. They cannot be overcome without appropriate treatment. A workers compensation case can include depression and anxiety caused by the work injury. Make sure to seek treatment for these types of injuries.
10. Failing to Keep a File
It is important that your lawyer knows every medical care provider that you see after an injury. It is also important that you keep track of all doctor orders, treatment referrals and/or work excuses and restrictions. Keeping a file of all materials provided to you by the doctors will ensure that you can provide all necessary information to your lawyer at the appropriate time.
To receive a Free book entitled "Iowa Workers' Compensation- An Insider's Guide to Work Injuries" which describes Iowa work injuries including the "7 Mistakes To Avoid If You Are Hurt At Work" Call Now 1-800-707-2552 (ext. 511) (24 Hour Recorded Message) or log onto www.IowaWorkInjury.com. Iowa attorney Corey J. L. Walker has helped hundreds of injured workers recover compensation for their work injuries and he practices primarily in workers' compensation law. He offers his book at no cost because he has seen too many Iowans make mistakes which cost them thousands of dollars. Finally, there is a book about Iowa work injuries that you can review in the comfort of your own home with no cost, obligation or risk. For immediate assistance call 515-440-2852 and ask to speak to one of our work injury attorneys.