October 23, 2019

Be on Alert for “Red Flag” Symptoms in Back Injury Cases

A significant number of work injuries in Georgia involve back injuries.   Unfortunately if you are being treated by a “posted panel” doctor, your treatment may be delayed or not taken seriously.  In this video, I discuss certain “red flag” issues that demand immediate treatment with a spine specialist whose focus is your well being.

 

Am I Entitled to More than One Independent Medical Exam if I have Multiple Work Injuries?

posted panel of physiciansUnder Georgia’s workers’ compensation law, your employer gets to direct where you get medical care if your employer provides you with a valid “posted panel of physicians.”   Not surprisingly, posted panel doctors sometimes bring a pro-employer bias to their treatment of you.  I regularly see – and you have no doubt heard stories about – cases in which a seriously injured man or woman is given a regular duty return to work, only to end up in surgery a few weeks later.

In 1990, the Georgia legislature gave injured workers an important new right, the “claimant’s IME (independent medical exam).  Under this law, an injured worker can request an independent medical examination with a doctor of his choosing, paid for by the employer’s insurance company.

When properly used as part of a effective claim strategy, your claimant’s IME can be used to:

  • refute the unfair and biased claim of industrial clinic doctors
  • contest a premature return to work demand by the insurance adjuster
  • support a request for a change in authorized treating physician
  • support a reasonable settlement demand

However, as important and valuable as your claimant’s IME rights may be, this right is not open ended and it can be wasted if not used properly. [Read more…]

Can my Spouse Get Paid by the Insurance Company for Helping Me Recover at Home from my Injury?

workers comp reimbursementMany of my clients are surprised to learn that their husband, wife or significant other can ask for payment for “attendant care” of an injured worker at home.   Why?  Often my seriously injured clients cannot take care of basic necessities such as:

  • bathing
  • dressing
  • meal preparation
  • driving
  • cleaning

Given that hospitals often release patients home as soon as possible, I see more and more instances where my clients recover mostly at home, with outpatient visits to rehab.

Under Georgia law (Georgia Code Section 34-9-200(a)), the employer/insurer must provide care that “shall be reasonably required and appear likely to effect a cure, give relief, or restore the employee to suitable employment.”   In the case of Medical Office Management v. Hardee, the Georgia Court of Appeals held that:

There is no express prohibition in the Workers’ Compensation Act against the recovery by an employee of attendant care services provided by a family member, including a spouse. Nor does the employer show that a family member cannot provide attendant home care under the Board’s rules and regulations…

The employer had argued against this “spousal reimbursement” on the grounds that the spouse was performing tasks he/she would do otherwise.   The Georgia Court of Appeals, as you can see, ruled otherwise, and permitted Ms. Hardee’s husband to collect a fee under the State Board fee schedule for attendant services.

What does this mean to you? [Read more…]

What to do About Substandard Medical Care in Your Workers’ Compensation Case

industrial clinic doctorIf you have never been involved in the Georgia workers’ compensation system before, you may be shocked and disappointed to learn that some of the physicians you meet seem to have an agenda other than your health and best interest. The Georgia workers’ compensation statute has created an environment where insurance companies have a financial interest to find and use doctors who downplay the seriousness of your injuries and who intentionally avoid referring you for necessary, but expensive care.  The net result of this system can mean delay and unnecessary suffering for you.

I sometimes receive calls from injured workers who are receiving weekly wage benefits as well as medical care, who wonder why they should hire counsel if everything “seems to be working out okay.”  Sometimes they sense that something is not quite right but are wary of rocking the boat.

Know Your Doctor’s Reputation

I respond that one of the most valuable services I offer my clients has to do with my knowledge of and opinions about the medical providers that accept workers’ compensation referrals in Georgia.  After 20+ years of practice in this area of law, I have seen or know about the biases and quality of work offered by most of these doctors. [Read more…]

Company Doctor Uses X-Rays Instead of MRI and Misses Herniated Disc


MRI ScanOften, when a worker injures his back on the job, the human resources manager will take down a claim and refer the worker to an industrial clinic for evaluation and treatment. All too often, the industrial clinic or other posted panel doctor will take X-rays, perform some basic neurological tests, then release the worker back to full duty work after a day or two of rest.

I often get these cases four to six weeks later when the injured worker finds himself unable to work because of severe back pain and limited mobility.   In some instances the injured worker faces pressure and even harassment from his employer due to his decreased productivity, and when I get the case, the employer/insurer may try to argue that any serious injury to the employee may have happened at home instead of at work.

Recently I represented a very nice young man in a back injury case that clearly demonstrates why X-rays are insufficient to evaluate back pain.

My client is a 31 year old man whose job involved installing and reinstalling fence posts.  Starting at 8 AM, my client, using a sledge hammer, loosened fence posts by breaking up their cement foundations, cleaned the post base, then reinstalle the post with fresh cement.  Beside using the sledge hammer, my client had to carry heavy buckets of cement and pour them in to holes in the ground.

By 2 PM that day, my client felt a “pop” in his back when he tried to lift the sledge hammer and he felt radiating pain in both legs.  He reported the injury to his supervisor, who referred him to an industrial clinic.  The clinic doctor took X-rays which described “mild disc space narrowing at L4-5” but no other impairment. [Read more…]

What is a “Claimant’s IME” and How Can I Take Advantage of this Powerful Benefit?

I often explain to my clients that a major struggle in any workers’ compensation case relates to medical care.  Georgia law gives employers the first opportunity to decide where an injured worker must go for treatment but this control is not complete:

  • if your employer does not provide a valid “posted panel” of physicians you may be able to seek care with any physician and your employer and its insurer must pay for this care
  • you can switch between one posted panel physician to another without prior permission
  • you can request  a change in authorized treating physician
  • you can request a claimant’s IME

The claimant’s IME is a very interested feature of Georgia law.  First enacted in 1990, Section 34-9-201(e) provides that an injured worker can demand an independent medical exam with a physician of his choice, paid for by the workers’ comp. insurance carrier.  In my practice I use this “claimant’s IME” frequently to get a second opinion about questionable existing care or as evidence to support a request for permanent change in authorized treating physician.

Of course your right to a claimant’s IME under Georgia law is not absolute – I recently wrote an article about this topic on one of my web sites.   Take a look if you are not happy with the quality of medical care you are receiving – and let me know what you think.

Injured Atlanta Cops Fight Workers Comp System

A front page story in the Sunday, May 24, 2009 edition of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution details the struggle of five catastrophically injured Atlanta police officers to obtain needed medical help from the City of Atlanta’s workers’ compensation office.  Each of these police officers was injured in the line of duty – with injuries ranging from brain damage to paralysis arising from gunshot wounds to the spinal cord.

Like many city and county governments, the City of Atlanta “self-insures” against workers’ compensation claims, meaning that weekly wage benefits and funds for medical treatment come directly out of the City’s budget.  The City does use a private claim’s administration service called NovaPro Risk Solutions out of San Diego.

The City is not denying responsibility for paying wage or medical claims, but it has been refusing to pay for various medical procedures and medical devices.

In one instance a police officer who had been rendered a parapalegic from a gunshot wound needed surgery on his Achilles tendon  because his feet kept slipping off his wheelchair footrests. [Read more…]