When Should You Hire an Attorney for a Workers’ Compensation Case?

You should at least TALK TO AN ATTORNEY as soon as possible.  The main reason?  Basic guidance every step of the way, and no attorney fees until and unless we collect for you at the end of your case (contingent fee, 20 %).  Here, I will provide some info that demonstrates the kind of guidance most workers need:

  • Immediately following your injury, the FIRST THING to do is to seek medical attention.  In many cases, the best option is an emergency medical care facility that you choose, preferably an emergency room, and not an “Occupational Clinic” at some hospital.  These “Occupational Clinics” are typically run by “doctors” who are gatekeepers for employers and insurance carriers, who have a Masters of Public Health.
Why do you NOT want to go to such an “Occupational Clinic”?
  • The only diagnostics test offered by an occupational physician usually is X-rays of the body part you’re complaining about the most.  If the X-rays read no broken bones and no dislocations, then you will be diagnosed as having a “sprain” or “strain,” or some other form of soft tissue injury.
  • Example:  Construction work injury.  Pain in lower back shooting down into arms and one leg.  Supervisor sends worker to occupational injury clinic.  Clinic doctor orders X-rays which show nothing, releases worker with “back sprain” diagnosis.  Worker actually requires an MRI test to reveal his multiple herniated discs in his lower back, which would only be seen on an MRI.  
Company nurses, supervisors, and even some bosses will usually try to persuade an individual to NOT go to the nearest emergency room, primarily for COST reasons.  It is all about COST CONTAINMENT to them, and they do not care about you, the injured worker.  The construction worker in the example above needs an MRI, but an MRI costs more money, and leads down the path of a more costly work comp claim.  The system is usually setup to minimize the worker’s injury, and get him back to work as quickly as possible, regardless of the negative impact on his or her health.
  • An injured worker should never allow the employer or any of its representatives, including the adjuster or nurse case manager, to direct his or her medical care, especially in the beginning, right after the injury.
  • That is to say:  You have a free choice of emergency care that does not count as one of your TWO choices of medical (assuming your employer does not have a PPP, or Preferred Provider Program, a complex topic I will not get into here.  See how quickly things get complicated?).
If you go to a regular emergency room, you may get directions from the emergency room, in writing, telling you to see a doctor within two days (or something along those lines), and you will have to do this in order to expect to be paid for lost time from work.  “Lost time” means under doctor’s orders, such as if you are written off work completely, or you are given work restrictions which your employer cannot accommodate, such as a 10 pound lifting restriction.  On the other hand, the great majority of workers who go to the company clinic or occupational clinic are often returned to work full duty.
 
List of People an Injured Worker CANNOT TRUST:

Any or all of these individuals may, and often do, try to direct your medical care from the very beginning of your case:

  1. Workers’ comp insurance claims adjuster.  (Do NOT give a recorded statement to this person, which is only taken to be used against you.  The adjuster is not there to help you, but to control the losses that will be sustained as a result of your injury, which includes: hospital bills, lost time payments, and diagnostics (such as x-rays, MRI’s, CAT scans, etc.)
  2. Company nurse, and/or Nurse Case Manager.
  3. Company doctor, occupational clinic doctor.
  4. “Independent” Medical Exam doctor.
  5. Human Resources personnel.
The sooner you hire a competent and experienced workers’ compensation attorney, the sooner you’ll not have to deal with a claim adjuster, the nurse case manager, company doctors, and all of these people who are not looking after what’s best for YOU, the injured worker, who will be the one dealing with the injury or injuries, possibly for the rest of your life, depending on your issues and how quickly you receive proper medical care.
You have the right to choose to go to an emergency room when you’re injured at work.  No one should direct you elsewhere, but in most situations, employers try to do this.  They will direct you to the company clinic.  Do yourself a favor: Go to the hospital (such as a regular hospital emergency room) instead, and get the care and diagnostics you need to determine the extent of your injuries.

Medical Care, Occupational Clinic

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