Seek Medical Care Immediately After Your Work Injury
Your employer’s workers compensation insurance company is looking for reasons to deny your claim. Other than issues relating to notice of injury, your delay or inconsistency in seeking medical care is one of the most common justifications used to not pay you. Therefore, if there is any question in your mind that you may have suffered a work injury while “on the clock” you should report the injury and seek treatment from a posted panel physician.
Why are delays in seeking medical treatment such a big deal? From the insurance company’s perspective, your delay in seeking care suggests that your injury really did not happen at work – that you hurt yourself at home or “off the clock” and that you are trying to stick your employer with the cost of your medical care.
Workers compensation judges can be receptive to this argument. Imagine yourself at a hearing before an administrative law judge. You contend that you herniated a disc when you fell off a ladder. Your doctor is reporting that a $25,000 back surgery is necessary, followed by rehab and possibly a modification to your job description. You will likely miss three to four months of work, during which time you will be receiving temporary total disability benefits of $500 per week from the insurance company.
Imagine further that the medical record shows that you report that you fell on March 3, but that your first doctor visit was March 20, and that you did not begin going to the doctor regularly until March 25.
Is it possible that the judge will accept the insurance lawyer’s argument that your March 3 fall constituted a minor injury and that you really hurt yourself working on your roof at home or playing basketball at a local rec league? The pain associated with a herniated disc is severe enough that just about anyone would seek care, even if that means emergency room care.
An unreasonable and unexplained delay in seeking treatment can sink your case. At the very least, you need to be prepared to explain clearly and carefully what you were doing.
What Should You Do if There Has Been a Delay in Your Medical Treatment?
Sometimes there can be legitimate reasons for a delay in medical treatment. Perhaps you did not realize immediately that your injury was serious. Perhaps you did not want to “rock the boat” with your employer by filing a workers’ compensation claim but you now realize that your injury will not resolve without treatment.
Whatever the reason, you should take action sooner rather than later, even if that means going to the emergency room. It also may be wise for you to speak to a lawyer about how to explain your delay in seeking treatment.