Top 5 Mistakes To Avoid If You Are Injured At Work

1. Keeping it a Secret
You should always report your injury to your supervisor immediately and document who you told. Many people don’t want to cause a fuss at work. If they’re injured, they try to work through the pain, hoping it will go away on its own. Often, they’re worried that if they report the injury they’ll lose their job or they just don’t think it’s a serious injury. However, a reluctance to report an injury normally comes back to haunt the client if the injury does not improve on its own. There are two reasons this is the case. First, employees are required to report their injuries within 30 days. If an employee does not report the injury within 30 days the employer can use that as a defense to covering the injury even if it’s clear that he/she was injured at work. Second, employers are skeptical of injuries when they are not reported right away. Instead of appreciating the attempt to work through the pain, employers assume people made the story up if they wait to report it. The logic we hear from employers and insurance adjustors is that if the injury was serious the employee would have reported it immediately.

If you are injured, report it right away or you risk not having your injury accepted as a workers’ compensation injury. Even if you think the injury is minor, you should tell your employer so that your employer is not surprised if you get worse. You should also document who you told and when you told the person so that you can recall the circumstances later if you’re asked.

2. Assuming Your Boss Reported Everything to His Insurance Company.
Just like workers, employers sometimes put off reporting injuries to their insurance companies. Clients often come to us stating that they reported the case to their boss but they still haven’t heard from the insurance adjustor. Then, we’ll contact the insurance adjustor and find out they know nothing about the claim. If you do not hear from an insurance adjustor shortly after notifying your boss of your injury, contact us and we’ll help you file a notice of claim with the insurance company that will put them on notice that you were injured at work. Again, if the adjustor finds out about the case months after it occurs, the adjustor might be skeptical of the case and the employer is under no incentive to convince the adjustor that he knew about the case and didn’t report. Furthermore, if your employer does not report the case, it will delay treatment. Don’t let your boss’s procrastination keep you from getting immediate treatment.

3. Letting your employer pick your doctor
Employers are required to post a panel of physicians on their wall and employees are allowed to choose one of those doctors. However, most of the times, our clients tell us they were just told to go to a particular doctor. Often times, this is an industrial clinic like Caduceus or Concentra. Other times, clients come to us after they have had a bad result with a surgeon they were sent to by their employer. We can help clients get a change of physician. However, the damage is often already done at that point. The poor choice in physician either delays treatment or an insurance doctor gives an opinion that sinks the case.

You have the right to choose a doctor from the panel of physicians at the beginning of the case. However, even then, you should call us to get our opinion on the doctors on the panel. It’s unlikely that your employer put our first choice on the panel. However, even with the limited choices on the panel, some are better than others and through years of working on these cases, we know their reputations. We’ve seen which doctors always send people back to work right away and we know which ones always seem to think an injury is a pre-existing condition. Give us a call and we’ll help you pick a doctor from the panel of physicians.

4. Giving Your Employer an Excuse to Fire You
If you think your employer is mad because you got hurt at work and doesn’t really want to accommodate your work restrictions, you are probably right. Your employer is probably just looking for an excuse to get rid of you. However, you should make sure you do not give the employer an excuse. Show up on time for work. Call in if you need to miss work because of a medical appointment or your injury has increased your pain.

If you have work restrictions and your employer is unable to offer you work within those restrictions, the employer has to pay you income benefits. However, employers don’t have to pay you benefits if you were terminated for reasons unrelated to your work restrictions. If you give your employer that excuse, he/she will take it. We can still get you benefits if you were fired for cause by showing that you looked for work and couldn’t find it due to you restrictions, but this takes time and leaves it in the discretion of a judge to determine if your job search was good enough. As a result, you should just avoid getting terminated if at all possible. If your employer has already fired you for cause, contact us and we’ll advise you on how to do a job search in order to get benefits.

5. Not calling an attorney at the beginning of your case
I know it seems self serving to say you should call an attorney early in your case, but it’s not. Workers’ Compensation attorneys do not get paid by the hour. We get paid based on benefits we get for you. This often comes through a settlement of your case or by going in front of a judge to get your benefits started. Therefore, there’s no additional cost to getting an attorney early in the case rather than after a few years. However, if you wait to come to us, your case will likely already have problems that we’ll have to work to fix. The case will go much more smoothly if you have an attorney advising you from the beginning. As such, please give us or another workers’ compensation attorney a call shortly after you’re injured. If we do not think you need our help, we’ll tell you.

5 Tips About Testifying At Your Social Security Hearing

5 Tips about Testifying at Your Social Security Hearing

When you go to a Hearing on your Social Security Disability case, you will be there to provide expert testimony on the symptoms which you experience and which keep you from being able to maintain work on a full-time, ongoing, regular basis. We can help you by developing the medical record to support your complaints and alleged limitations. Of course we can also represent you at the Hearing.

Here are 5 Tips to keep in mind.

1. A Hearing is an informal proceeding during which you describe the problems you are having and how they limit your ability to perform work. There is no one right way to state things. The Judge will be expecting to hear a story that makes sense, so just relax and do the best you can to explain what health conditions have made you unable to work.

2. BE YOURSELF. Don’t try to memorize what you are going to say. Doing this will sound planned and unnatural. Just tell your story your way. Explain why you had to stop working if your medical condition made you stop working. If your disability has gotten worse over the years, say so. It is ok to say “I do not remember” in response to a question from the Judge if this is truly the case. You are the best expert on your symptoms.

3. TELL THE TRUTH. Do not minimize your symptoms in an effort to impress the Judge with your self-discipline or manliness. Likewise do not exaggerate your limitations by saying things like “I can’t do anything all day.” Be specific and give examples of activities that you are unable to do or unable to sustain. Remember, the Judge is determining what he or she thinks you would be able to do 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. Avoid being led to agree with something that is untrue if it is untrue. Simply restate the correct information.

4. EXPLAIN YOR ANSWERS. In assessing your case the Judge needs to understand how your conditions affect you in terms of your ability to walk, stand, lift, carry, reach, handle, bend, stoop, crouch, kneel, crawl, etc. The Judge will also consider how well you remember, handle stress, deal with other people, pay attention and stay on task. Descriptions of your day to day challenges are helpful to illustrate your limitations. You should also be sure to tell the Judge about any side effects you have from your medications and about how you manage your pain or other symptoms through the day. Many people have good days and bad days. Describing these helps the Judge understand your situation.

5. BE RESPECTFUL. Dress is such a way as to show the Judge that you are taking him or her seriously. Clean simple clothing is fine. Avoid T-shirts with words, extremely revealing clothing and torn clothing. Do not lose your temper or take this as a time to rant about political issues. When answering a question, pause and think about your answer before giving it. Always give a verbal answer because the hearing is being audio recorded but not video recorded. You will need to say “my left shoulder hurts” rather than “I have pain here.”

Because we are a local law firm and have practiced in this area for over 30 years, we can tell you about the Judge before who you will appear and what he or she does in Hearings. We can help you before the Hearing by letting you know what kinds of questions to expect and how to put your best foot forward.

 

The Truth About Workers’ Comp Hearing Postponements

Your workers’ comp hearing just got postponed for the 3rd time and your attorney tells you it’s normal. How can this be right? Your claim was turned down by the insurance company or your weekly income benefits were suspended, and you’ve been without medical care and income for months and are in pain and on the verge of financial ruin while it seems the insurance company’s attorney keeps delaying your hearing without good reason.

What you want to know is; “Can the workers’ comp insurance company keep postponing your workers’ comp hearing without just cause?” The answer is: “No.”

The One Thing that Causes the Hearing to Be Postponed:

Your workers’ comp hearing cannot be postponed without just cause or reasonable legal excuse. However, the judge will postpone the first setting of your hearing on the grounds that discovery (the gathering of information or evidence through interrogatories, requests for production, depositions etc.) can’t be completed by the hearing date, which is usually set within 30 to 45 days from the hearing request.  The discovery methods used in workers’ comp cases are the same methods used in civil cases. But in civil cases you get 6 months of discovery before your trial date is set. In workers’ comp cases, you don’t get a fixed period of discovery before the hearing date is set. Therefore, you pretty much are guaranteed that your hearing will be postponed a few times while discovery is going on.   After the first setting, however, the employer and its insurance company must have a legal excuse to postpone the hearing.  A legal excuse would include a legal conflict of the insurance company attorney – another hearing on the same day as yours in a different venue that was requested before yours, or a medical request to a hospital or doctor on your case that has yet to be responded to.  A majority of judges will require the attorneys to conduct a telephone conference call and provide proof of their reasons for requesting a postponement of the hearing before making a decision granting or denying the postponement.

Keep in mind that written discovery such as interrogatories, requests for admission and requests for production of documents can’t be sent until a hearing request is filed.  We send written discovery to the employer and insurance company at the same time the hearing request is filed.  Responses are due within 30 days. You and the employer’s representative may require additional time to gather your documents and evidence to respond to the written questions and extensions to respond to written discovery are routinely given.

We at Affleck & Gordon use our best practices to try to speed up the discovery process by having our medical evidence ready before requesting a hearing and by requesting the scheduling of our client’s deposition as soon as practicable. You may also help to speed up the discovery process and ultimately your hearing by providing information and documents as quickly as you can. If you have prior medical records or your medical history on a CD, you should also provide these to your attorney promptly, so your attorney can have any prior injuries or conditions addressed by your treating doctor.