The Workers’ Comp Doctor: What to do on that first visit…

I just finished up a report on what to do and what not to do on that first trip to the dreaded workers’ comp doctor. Here’s a quick overview/summary of my recommendations:

  • Be nice, even if you don’t like the doctor
  • Be prepared with notes explaining exactly how you were injured – explain this to the doctor. Rinse, and repeat.
  • Do like your parents taught you – don’t lie or exaggerate your symptoms. Workers’ Comp doctors have a way of knowing.
  • Don’t say or do anything that you don’t want the Industrial Commission to find out about.
  • Order your records after the visit to insure that they accurately reflect your visit.
  • Talk to the doctor about their opinion with regards to return to work restrictions.
  • Don’t let the doc have a meeting with the nurse without you.
  • Don’t talk bad about the nurse or Workers’ Comp carrier in front of the doctor.  You can call me and do that.
  • Even if you hate the doctor, don’t lose your temper. Again, call me and shout all you want.
  • Don’t get treated for an unrelated condition while you are seeing the Workers’ Comp Doctor.
  • Don’t tape the visit, unless you are being sent to an IME – in which case you probably need a lawyer. Feel free to call me.
  • If you decide not to tape your IME, make notes of the visit.

If that is too much for you to read – remember to be nice, keep notes, don’t lie. That’s about it. Questions? My number is (919) 460-5422.

The Rehab Nurse – Who do they really work for?

If the insurance company decides to accept liability for your workers comp claim, then they are able to direct your care.  As part of that care, the insurance adjuster will assign you to what is called a Rehabilitation Nurse to manage your care.  According to the NC Industrial Commission Rules for Utilization of Rehabilitation Professionals in Workers’ Compensation Claims, the purpose of these Rehabilitation Counselors is to provide for the “medical and vocational rehabilitation of the injured worker”.

The North Carolina Industrial Commission has also provided a brief summary of these “Rehab Rules” for the injured worker.

Although the Rehab Professional is supposed to be working to help you with your care, in reality they are working for and with the insurance company to assist in the effort to terminate your Worker’s Compensation benefits.  The Rehab nurse is an employee of the insurance company, and often times works side-by-side with the adjuster assigned to your case.  These nurses have a clear understanding of who signs their paychecks and how their company makes money.  No bones about it – they will do what they can to turn off your benefit checks.

While we encourage all of our clients to follow closely the instructions of the Rehab nurse very carefully, there are some things that you need to watch out for which are clear violations of the Rehab Rules outlined above.  If you nurse engages in any of the following behaviors, it is a violation of the Rehab Rules and you should contact an attorney immediately:

  1. They attempt to tell the doctor what to do or when to release you to return to work;
  2. They attempt to tell the doctor where to send you for an MRI or physical therapy, or they tell the doctor which specialist to refer you to;
  3. They attempt to give you legal advice regarding the merits of your claim or tell you what will happen if you go back to work;
  4. They are corresponding with doctors or other healthcare providers or to the insurance adjuster without copying you on those communications;
  5. They are talking to your doctor without you being present, or they insist on sitting in on your examination with your doctor; or,
  6. They try to get you to sign a release that authorizes them to talk to your doctor without you being present.

There is another type of rehabilitation specialist called a Vocational Rehab professional, whose job is to find you a new job.  The pitfalls related to these professionals will be discussed in a future post.