Threats from Employer
I recently spoke to a prospective client who reported the following conversation that he had with his supervisor after reporting a work accident:
My boss told me that the company would handle everything for me but that they would stop helping me if I called a lawyer. What should I do?
Unfortunately it is not at all surprising to me when employers use subtle and not so subtle threats to injured employees. As I discuss many times on this web site, Georgia workers’ compensation is an extremely adversarial area of the law – perhaps only contested divorce is more hostile. It should not be this way – after all, workers’ compensation is intended to help injured workers obtain medical care quickly and to pay them for their lost wages while they recover.
For many reasons, however, it is very rare that the system works as we might like. Insurance companies will send you to doctors who minimize the severity of your injury, delay ordering necessary tests, and return you to work before you are ready. And while there are some instances of fraud by employees, my experience has been that falsified claims are rare and that most injured workers would prefer to get their health back and return to full time work. Unfortunately it just doesn’t often work that way.
What Happens When a Lawyer Gets Involved?
I think it is fair to say that hiring a lawyer represents a more serious stage in your workers’ compensation case. There are plenty of instances in which I will not take on representation because it looks to me that a prospective client’s injuries are not especially serious and my caller really wants to return to work. If my involvement will not significantly change the course of your case, I will not get involved.
I will also tell you if I believe that it makes sense for you to bring on legal counsel. For example, if you are dealing with a serious back injury such as a herniated disc, and your job involves lifting or bending all day long, there is a good chance that you will not be able to return to that job, at least in the immediate future. In such a case, it may be obvious to me that trying to cooperate with your employer and its insurer will hurt you more than it will help you and I will advise you of such.
If you call Ginsberg Law Offices to discuss your case, I will not take any action, file any paperwork or notify your employer that you have called us without first getting your approval. Whether or not you decide to hire my firm, anything and everything you tell my staff or me about your case remains absolutely confidential.
Expect a Change in Attitude from Your Employer
Do not be surprised if your employer hires investigators to perform surveillance on you in an attempt to take pictures of you acting in a manner that is not consistent with your claimed injury. Run a brief search on Google for “Spy Surveillance” and you will be amazed at the technology. For example a search on the term “spy surveillance dvr” brings up a company that offers spy cameras embedded in bow ties, baseball caps and cigarette boxes. Don’t assume that because you do not see a camera, one is not there.
The workers’ compensation carrier will use private investigators to try to take pictures or videos of you performing activities inconsistent with your injuries and they will use this evidence to deny your claim or reduce your settlement. When I am hired, I discuss with my clients the issue of insurance company surveillance and how to avoid problems in this area.
In any case, we think it is a good idea for you to be aware of all of your options. You should be suspicious if your employer wants to keep you in the dark about workers’ compensation. While this may be your first case, you can bet that your company has faced many claims and has the benefit of experienced legal counsel.
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