December 13, 2019

Employee’s Failure to Honor Light Duty Restrictions Results in Denial of Benefits

How are your rights under Georgia’s workers compensation law affected if you return to work light duty but end up performing full duty work?

In a recent case heard by the Georgia Court of Appeals, an injured worker was denied weekly wage benefits because he worked beyond the light duty restrictions set out by his supervisor.

The employee in this case was a cook, cashier and clean up worker at a fast food restaurant. In January, 2013, the employee injured his back when lifting a pot of chili. Shortly thereafter he aggravated his back throwing trash into a dumpster. He was instructed by his supervisor to avoid heavy exertion.

On November 19, 2013, the employee injured his back again when a stack of boxes collapsed on his head and chest while he was unloading supplies. Following this accident, the employee’s supervisor instructed him “not to lift anything unless given permission to do so by a member of management.” Four days later, however, the employee was observed by his supervisor lifting heavy items while restocking the store. [Read more…]

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. [Read more…]

Why Would my Employer Deny my Legitimate Injury Claim?

I have written a lot on this blog about how strategies you and your lawyer can use to fight insurance company delays, refusal to authorize needed medical treatment and refusal to start weekly wage benefits.

You may be wondering why your employer – and by extension, their insurance company would fight you on a work injury claim that was witnessed and where even the posted panel doctor agrees that your injury arose from your job?

Isn’t there some sort of “good faith” requirement that insurance companies need to meet? And beyond that, what benefit accrues to the insurance company if their delays result in more needed medical treatment and more off-work status for you? [Read more…]

Can You Collect Workers’ Compensation Benefits if You Were at Fault in your Work Accident

Would you be surprised to learn that you are eligible to pursue workers’ compensation benefits in Georgia cases even if you were at fault in the accident?

Workers’ compensation law in Georgia is considered a “no fault” system, meaning that you are covered even if your injuries arose from your own negligence.  Under Georgia law, you are automatically covered by workers’ compensation is your injury arose out of and in the course of your employment.  This idea that in order to be covered you need to be acting for the benefit of your employer is common in workers compensation statutes in many states – for example in North Carolina the work injury law asks if your employer exercise control and direction over your work?

Examples:

  • a forklift driver turns too late and knocks over a scaffolding, causing boxes to fall on him, resulting in a broken arm and a closed head injury.  The forklift driver is eligible for benefits.
  • an industrial sewing machine operator gets distracted and loses a finger to a cutting knife.  The machine operator can pursue workers’ comp. benefits
  • a backhoe operator fails to properly park his machine and he gets run over when trying to exit the cab.  The backhoe operator is covered.

While you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits even if you were at fault, you can be denied if your injury was the result of “horseplay.” [Read more…]

Injured Workers Suffers Due to Insurance Company Tactics

This is a video from a TV news report in Michigan but the issues raised are the same as what we face here in Georgia.  Workers’ compensation insurance companies frequently send claimants to “independent” medical examinations that result in bogus diagnoses and unconscionable claim denials.

I wrote about this issue on this blog back in February – this video clip shows the human tragedy that can occur when a claimant gets railroaded.

“Independent” Medical Exams Scheduled by the Insurance Company are Rarely Legitimate

Funny Doctor breaks the bad newsA very common tactic used by workers’compensation insurance companies to cut off your benefits involves the use of something called an “independent medical exam” or IME.  As you might guess, in my experience these medical evaluations are rarely independent and they often serve no purpose other than medical support for termination of benefits.

Fortunately, most of the State Board judges that consider workers’ comp issues understand how the IME game works, and they look at these results with a very critical eye, but insurance adjusters continue to use this practice as a matter of course.

When I get an IME notice, the first thing I will look for is the name of the examining doctor.  There are a number of physicians out there who work extensively for the insurance industry and in almost every file sent to one of these doctors, the resulting report will minimize the extent and nature of the work injury, question the relation of injury to the accident at work , and suggest that a full duty return to work is appropriate.

Because the insurance company has the right to send you out for one of these biased IMEs, you have no choice but to go.  I can usually predict what the forthcoming report will say and that the insurance company is planning to try to cut you off, so I gear up to request a hearing challenging the proposed cut off.

The file will end up on the desk of a defense lawyer who I most likely know.  He or she and I will talk and acknowledge that the insurance IME was a waste of time and we will either start to discuss settlement, or try to agree on a more unbiased doctor to see you. [Read more…]

Is a Private Investigator Following You?

private investigatorOver the years I have written articles and recorded videos about insurance company surveillance. As I explain to all of my work injury clients, the minute you give notice of your on-the-job injury to your employer, there is a good chance that your employer’s insurance company will hire a private investigator to follow you, take photos and videos, or even engage you in conversation at a store or doctor’s office in an effort to undermine your claim.

I tell you this not to make you paranoid but to reveal to you the reality of workers’ compensation practice in Georgia.

As you may know if you have read my biography, back in the 1990’s I worked for a large insurance defense law firm located in midtown Atlanta. The lawyers at this firm were and are zealous advocates for their clients and they are very skilled attorneys.  I know from firsthand experience how employers and their insurance companies fight claims.

Your Employer Does Not Believe Your Work Injury Claim is Legitimate

I can also tell you that most of the employer clients and insurance adjusters I spoke to believed sincerely that just about all workers’ compensation claimants exaggerate or completely faked their injuries.  Never forget that employers and insurance companies view your on-the-job injury as an expense to be managed and controlled.  I believe that this attitude remains the prevailing thought process today. Even if a particular insurance defense attorney personally feels that your injury is legitimate, that attorney is paid to contest your claim, not to debate the merits of your case with an insurance adjuster or company owner. [Read more…]