Once Upon a Workers’ Comp Claim: How the Medical Narrative Effects the Initial and Future Success of a Claim
At its core workers’ compensation, like all law, is nothing more than a story. However, unlike most bards, workers’ comp attorneys are storytellers that craft their narrative based on facts pulled from medical records. Therefore, the more medical records the attorney has to work with the more complete the story. In a perfect fairy tale world every claimant would seek immediate medical care after an accident and continue to treat up until the time of final settlement, but the world is not perfect and most claimants do not seek treatment nor continue treatment, which can have negative side-effects.
If you find yourself pondering “to treat or not to treat” below are the three most common reasons injured workers do not go to the doctor and the effect this decision can have on their claim.
“It’s just a sprain, I can take care of it myself”
— This is a tale as old a time, and a thought most people have after a minor accident. However, you are not a doctor, and even if you are a medical professional there are major issues that you could be missing.
So why does this hurt your case?
- For starters, if creates doubt as to whether or not you were hurt at work. The longer you go without treatment, the more a hearing officer will wonder if you got hurt at work, at home, or if this your injury is natural deterioration. These kinds of gaps are claim killers.
- Secondly, if you are seeking money benefits for time off, you now have to explain why you were capable of working for weeks, months, years, and now suddenly are not.
- Finally, if you are a medical professional you have all the issues stated above plus the bonus prize of being held to the “you should have known better” standard.
I do not want to make my boss angry, and lose my job”
Far and away this is the most common concern every injured worker has and rightly so. However, the State of Ohio has put in place laws that protect injured workers’ from retaliation (aka: I sought medical treatment, filed a claim, and now my boss has canned me). Therefore, in the short term an injured worker should not be afraid of seeking initial medical care. Remember this is your body and that is with you forever, bosses and jobs come and go!
***In the long term the workers’ comp statute does not protect your job and it is a real possibility that your employer could terminate you. ***
Well, I got better”
— Getting better is great! However, you’ve got to keep in mind that until you settle your claim, workers’ comp is your medical coverage for your work injuries. Therefore, if you need or want treatment, you have to go through the system first. Just like in scenario #1, gaps between your initial treatment and your next treatment are killers for your long term medical treatment in a claim. Therefore, check in with your workers comp doctor at least once a year to keep your medical record up to date.
So remember, the best way to ensure you have a workers’ comp happily ever after is to seek treatment and tell your attorney when you do.