December 13, 2019

Back Pain Claims Under Georgia Workers’ Compensation Law – Avoid the Runaround

Back injuries that occur on the job are the most common type of injury claimed by employees under the Georgia workers’ compensation system.  This is not surprising since a back injury can occur when you are lifting, carrying, pushing or stooping.  You can also injury your back when you slip on a wet floor, or if you fall off a ladder or scaffold.

Whatever the reason for your injury, if you hurt your back while working you are automatically covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.  Your employer does not have the option to “opt out” of workers’ compensation coverage.

Once you report your on-the-job injury to your employer, a workers’ compensation insurance company will get involved and  this is where you may begin seeing problems.

You are Only a Number to the Insurance Company

Even if you are a long time employee, cherished by your boss and treated like a member of the family, your employer’s insurance company will see you only as a number and a cost that they need to keep down.   Many of our clients have expressed frustration and anger at the disrespect showed to them by their employer’s insurance company.

In the case of back injuries, the initial symptoms you experience – pain, swelling and stiffness – may reflect a serious disc injury, or they may arise from a mild strain. Until an MRI is performed, however, we won’t know just how serious your back injury is.

Regardless of how serious your injury may actually be, the insurance adjuster will open your file under the assumption that your injury is only a mild strain that you can work through on regular duty, or, at worst, you can work through on light duty.  They will likely refer you to an industrial clinic doctor who sees you with the expectation that your injury is not serious.

Insurance Companies Use Delay Tactics to Try to Make You Give Up

As an attorney for injured workers, I have a problem with this “one size fits all” approach to back injuries.  For example, if you have pain radiating into your arms or legs, or if your injury creates problems with urination or defecation, the odds are high that you have a disc injury.  Rest, physical therapy and pain medications are not going to solve your problem.

If your symptoms do not improve significantly within a few days, the correct medical response would be for the treating doctor to refer you to an orthopedist or neurosurgeon for evaluation and treatment.  An MRI should be ordered as well to determine exactly what is going on.

Industrial clinic doctors are pressured by the insurance company not to refer you to a specialist or to order an expensive MRI.  Often the industrial clinic doctor will continue to treat you conservatively, with pain medications or physical therapy, delaying referrals to specialists.  Delays in treatment of your serious back injury can lead to permanent nerve damage. You may be a number to the insurance company but you and your family will suffer if you have permanent injuries that will leave you permanently disabled or limited in the type of work you can do.

After representing injured Georgia workers for almost 30  years, I have seen case after case where an insurance company used delay and non-payment of temporary total disability benefit checks to wear down the injured worker.  You should not and must not let this happen to you.  Regardless of your symptoms and the likelihood that your back injury is disc related and serious, we cannot assume that the insurer will do the right thing and authorize treatment by an orthopedist or neurosurgeon. That is where I come in – after almost 30 years of representing work injury clients with back injuries, I know how to use the law to pressure the insurance company to authorize the right kind of medical specialist and I also know which doctors are going to have your interest at heart.

Workers’ compensation claims in Georgia are a battle and you need both evidence and an aggressive attorney on your side. Call me at 770-351-0801 for help.

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Jodi Ginsberg

Attorney Jodi Ginsberg represents employees who are injured on the job and who need medical care and missed wage benefits available under Georgia's workers' compensation laws.

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