Five Clues an Injured Employee is Dragging Out a Workers Compensation Claim

5 clues an injured worker is dragging out a workers comp claimEvery now and then one comes across a claimant who knows the twists and turns of the workers compensation system. These claimants are mostly dependable and good workers. But when a potential subjective injury happens, they are the people to watch out for.

 

The insurance industry calls these people “career claimants.” When a background check is done, they have a list of prior claims a mile long. Having many prior claims does not necessarily mean they are bad workers; perhaps they are injury-prone. It is very interesting, however, when claims are filed, they are sneaky enough to do just enough to keep the wheels turning on their claim to remain out of work or on medical restrictions. Odd how that happens…

 

Adjusters can use their defensive tools to get these claimants off workers comp. Even when adjusters do IMEs, surveillance, and speak with the physicians providing the treatment, nothing seems to get this type of worker back to full duty.

 

When claimants know too much about how the workers comp system works, they use it to their advantage by:

 

 
1. Having the Physician on their Side

 

Physicians usually base opinions on medical evidence. Tricky claimants know what to tell and what not to tell the doctor. They use the Internet as an information source. For example, if someone sustains a back strain, acceptable symptoms are researched to report without over-exaggerating the symptomology to cause the treating physician to see red flags.

 

Limited range of motion, muscle spasm, and bringing up pain complaints tell a doctor if the person is or is not hurt. The doctor proceeds presuming the patient is reporting honesty and may keep the patient on restrictions, on continuing treatment, and off work. This is where the independent medical examination (IME) comes into play. It is always good to have another opinion just in case the treating doctor is not being proactive in moving the patient along to full duty, especially if the subjective complaints do not match the objective evidence on examination.

  

 

2. Rescheduling Doctor and Physical Therapy Appointments

 

Everyone has a life outside of work. However, constant rescheduling of medical appointments is a red flag for the adjuster. Maybe now and then a physical therapy appointment is missed, especially when working light duty. But, it is important to remember legitimate injured workers want to get treatment in order to heal and return to full duty.

 

A typical lumbar strain does not necessarily prevent a person from being active or running errands, but if a trend arises of constant rescheduling — THINK — what else is going on besides the injured worker’s schedule. Surveillance is a handy tool to confirm suspicions. It is especially helpful if the injured worker is caught in a lie. If the worker reports to the adjuster therapy is missed even when off work, and surveillance shows the employee doing yard work instead of going to physical therapy, that is evidence to suspend the claim due to non-compliance with the treatment plan provided by the doctor.

 

Hot Tip: One therapy office has a policy of charging the patient the full amount of the missed appointment unless given 24-hour notice. They present patients with this written policy at the beginning of therapy and make them sign indicating they understand they will be charged and their insurance will not be billed.

 

 

3. The Claimant Knows the Lingo

 

One thing jumping right into the adjuster’s face is a claimant knowledgeable about the injury in medical terms. The average person does not use words like radiculopathy, impingement, and stenosis or know what they mean.

 

Even more striking is when a worker discusses a settlement or redemption early on in the claim. This should lead the adjuster to believe the worker has been down the workers’ comp claim road before. Most times, when a background check is done it shows prior litigation experience with prior employers. These are all red flags indicating you really want to keep an eye on this claimant.

 

 

4. The Claimant is Off Work and Cannot be Found

 

When a claimant has a legitimate injury and is off work for a while, it is good idea to do surveillance just to see what the worker is up to. After a few days, if the video only shows the worker poking a head out of the front door to retrieve the mail, it is always a red flag. The person may have a prior claim history, broke restrictions and the claim was denied or suspended.

 

Or even worse, when you go to do surveillance the worker cannot be found anywhere. The worker might be staying at another location or at another property. When you talk to the employee, excuses are made about how pain is so disabling all that can be done is to stay home and rest. However, something is awry if you go to do surveillance and the car is not in the driveway.

 

 

 
5. The Worker Misses a Few Therapy Appointments Every Week

 

Remember, injured workers with legitimate injuries want treatment so they can heal and return to work. In a red flag claim when a person goes to some treatment, but not all and not all the time, this means they are doing just enough to keep the claim alive, but missing just enough treatments to not get better.

 

The unsaid rule in claims is the longer a person is off work, the harder it is to get them back to work. This is where a light-duty work program comes in handy. Light duty forces the worker to go to work. It also forces them to go to treatment, especially if one has to leave work to go to therapy and then return to work to finish the shift.

 

Doing just enough to keep the adjuster from disputing the claim shows the claimant knows a little bit about how the claims system works. As an adjuster, if a person makes 75 percent of the medical appointments, is that really going to stand up in court if you pull the trigger and file a dispute or suspension?

 

 

Summary

 

Just one of these does not mean your employee is cheating your — and a claimant may be well-informed and quite honest. But, there are some smart claimants who know how to work the system. If, as the adjuster, you spot one of these claims, it is your role to stay on top of every aspect of the claim. Make sure if workers miss appointments they have some sort of documentation to support absences. The more pressure you put on them the better result you will have in defeating unethical claimants at their own game.

 

 

Author Rebecca Shafer, JD, President of Amaxx Risks Solutions, Inc. is a national expert in the field of workers compensation. She is a writer, speaker, and website publisher. Her expertise is working with employers to reduce workers compensation costs, and her clients include airlines, healthcare, printing/publishing, pharmaceuticals, retail, hospitality, and manufacturing. See www.LowerWC.com for more information. Contact: RShafer@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com .

 

Our WORK COMP BOOK: www.WCMANUAL.com

 

Do not use this information without independent verification. All state laws vary. You should consult with your insurance broker or agent about workers comp issues.

 

 

©2011 Amaxx Risk Solutions, Inc. All rights reserved under International Copyright Law. If you would like permission to reprint this material, contact Info@ReduceYourWorkersComp.com.

Discussion

  1. Start miller says:

    When the first case claims your great and in reality, you have been curruptively scammed by the system and can’t even sit for an hour without ice on your back and the state says your not disabled, so you go back to work and fall after you tell the doc you can not work because your legs are weak and painful and you fall and then what? They follow you and upset your God given peace and claim your just perfect all over again. In poverty and have cancer and no home or healthy food or PRIVACY!!! That’s California!

  2. What about the other side. Insurance companies, adjusters, doctors and physical therapists that are part of the scam to keep the employee from benifits and ignore his disability. More money being spent on administrative costs, lawyers and investigations to keep from paying a injured worker than getting them the proper help needed to return to work healthy, actually providing compensation and support for the injured workers bills. It’s set up as a scam to benefit the industry in many states and its not the injuries that cost so much, its the cost involved to monitor, regulate, stop and prevent payment to an injured worker that raises the cost of workmans comp.

  3. Joyce Lynch says:

    I was injured while working in the California prison system my suit has been going on since 2014 it just went to court a msc hearing the other side offered me 1000 to settle NO way I can’t sit,stand lift or pull I’m no longer in CA I had to move to Texas where my sister helps take care of me my attorney told me today the other side wants a evaluation so I only have Texas medicade I’m on social security disability and only have primary care physician will a letter from him be excepted I don’t know what to do I do know I’m not willing to except 1000

  4. Sand Man says:

    You people think all the same, did you ever think there was a more dangerous job then sitting around punching the key board with your fingers and mouth? I went through this B/S after breaking my arm and getting RSD nerve damage for life, I got screwed with for months by the insurance case lady pressuring me to go back to work, she would show up to my doctors and therapy appointments play her game, so I played her like a fiddle. im still injured to this day, but don’t play me for a fool when im hurt. So the story is short, don’t screw with people that are truly hurt or have a disability!!!!!

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