Why do injured workers seek an attorney? The answer to this question tells us a lot about our workers’ compensation system. A recent article reports a study by an industry association on this issue. While the results are interesting, they are no surprise to me. I hear these reasons on a daily basis talking with clients. According to the study, the following reasons for hiring an attorney were commonly reported by injured workers:
- Concerns about being fired or laid off as a result of the work-related accident and injury;
- Concerns about the company treating the claim as illegitimate;
- Delays or miscommunications in the claims process; and,
- Feelings that the claim had been denied.
These are all important concerns. Often, employees dedicate years of hard-work and loyalty to a company. Yet, when the same loyal employees suffer a personal injury, they are suddenly treated as if they were not honest and not valued. That is wrong.
The system should work so that employees get needed medical care as quickly as possible. Too often, it does not work that way. Injured workers frequently tell me how they have waited days and weeks for the insurance carrier simply to accept their claim. Why should it take that long for the adjuster simply to pick up the telephone and verify the facts with the employer? In some industries, companies routinely deny claims whether valid or not. Injured workers frequently tell me how they have left numerous messages over the course of days and weeks with the adjuster simply to get approval for a medication or doctor’s visit. Is it too much to ask that the adjuster call the hurting employee back occasionally? Then, there are the employees who suffer an injury after years of hard work and suddenly face questions about their work history, preexisting health issues, and credibility.
I understand that some claims should be denied. However, most workers are honest. They are hard-working. They would rather work than go through the comp system. And, they deserve to be treated with respect not suspicion. The concerns which motivate injured employees to hire an attorney are real. Too often, legal counsel is needed to fight the wrongful denials and delays that prevent a successful medical recovery and return to work.by Jeff Blackwell