Workplace assaults are common for many professions. Think about nurses and the large number of difficult encounters they face with patients and families. Think about restaurant workers and other service industry professionals who interact with customers on a daily basis. Think about law enforcement officers and other first responders who deal with the public during the worse possible events. Just this morning, I read a headline on al.com about a FedEx driver who was shot by another driver in a road rage incident in Birmingham. Workplace assaults are not unusual. Many professions are impacted.
It’s a common pattern. A worker at a large factory suffers an on-the-job injury. He tells his supervisor who then sends him to the plant nurse. Many big factories have an on-site nurse or first-aid department. So, the hurting worker goes to first aid. Often, the hurting worker will return to the plant nurse several times over the course of days, weeks and months. Yet, the company does little or nothing to help its employee. Does the company send its hurt worker to a doctor? No. Does the company report the injury to its workers’ compensation carrier? No.
The injured employee continues to try and work. He or she continues to hurt. Eventually, one of two things usually occurs. Some injured workers simply give up. These employees seek outside medical care through private payment or private insurance. Other injured workers keep trying to work until the injury worsens severely. At that point, the injured worker cannot work. Because the plant nurse did not properly report the accident or injury, it may also be too late for workers’ compensation benefits. It’s a bad scenario for the injured worker.
Over the course of two decades, I’ve represented countless workers facing hurdles wrongly and needlessly created by the plant nurse. How does the plant nurse or first-aid department prevent needed medical care and workers’ compensation benefits? Here are a few ways a plant nurse can harm injured workers:
In a past article, I discussed a study that revealed work related illnesses and injuries cost at least $250 billion a year. My prior post raises the question — Why does our system not focus on safety? A small investment in safety would pay huge returns.
Our current system fails to invest in safety. While workers are penalized for some unsafe conduct, the system does nothing to the few reckless employers who cause most of the injuries. The most reckless and dangerous employers suffer no penalties under Alabama workers’ compensation laws. They suffer no penalties causing them to lose lucrative government contracts. They suffer almost no penalties from OSHA which is overstressed, understaffed and rarely inspects unsafe worksites. Unless we focus on real safety by penalizing reckless employers, we will continue to see far too many work related injuries.
What is the cost of occupational accidents and injuries to reckless and unsafe employers? At worst, the injury may result in some type of premium increase for work comp coverage? A recent UC Davis study showed that the majority of workplace injury and illness costs are not even paid through workers’ compensation insurance. Instead, these costs are simply shifted to the government. Think taxpayers like us! When it comes right down to it, reckless and unsafe employers dispose of their workers by shifting the costs of accidents and disabilities to the taxpayer.
Why do people call a lawyer after a work-related accident? What reasons lead to calling an attorney? While sitting in court on a recent workers’ compensation case, I started thinking about this issue.
For me, former clients are the best source of referrals. Work hard for your clients. Care for your clients. Do the best job you can. But, let’s set aside referrals for this post. Let’s talk about injured workers who do not know any attorney. What reasons would lead an injured worker to consult any attorney at all? A serious accident or injury presents many issues that can be helped by competent legal advice. Most personal injury attorneys provide a free consultation. We do. We are happy to answer legal questions.
What are some of the most frequent problems encountered by injured workers that lead them to call an attorney? Here are a few frequent reasons that might lead to calling an attorney:
For a few workers’ compensation insurance carriers, the pattern is simple. Deny most claims. Assert some general reason such as a “preexisting” condition. Maybe you’ve heard this denial. These bad insurance carriers figure it’s an easy denial. After all, who was “perfectly” healthy prior to an accident.
I’ve seen the denial letters claiming a “preexisting” condition. It’s like the insurance company has a form letter and process. Just a few simple assembly line steps and your claim is denied: Insert the injured person’s name and address. Hit print. Mail the denial letter. Move to the next claim!
While a few carriers seem to use a quick form denial for these claims, a few others play a different game. These carriers simply ignore the claim indefinitely asserting it is under “investigation.” In some cases, the insurance carrier makes more and more requests to continue its “investigation” while refusing to provide benefits. Whether denied or under an endless investigation, the result is the same. The injured person sits without the medical care needed to recover and return to work.