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What to do after a work injury by Celia Sunne

Posted By Emily Ghant (Johnson), Wednesday, October 1, 2014

My name is Celia Sunne.  I have been practicing in the area of workers’ compensation for over twenty-five years, representing the injured worker throughout the state of Georgia.  If you have been injured on the job you need to be aware of the initial steps that need to be taken. 


The First Four Crucial Steps To Take After a Work Injury


1. Tell your supervisor immediately and ask for medical attention if you have had a work injury.


            One of the biggest mistakes an injured worker makes is to wait before telling the supervisor of the accident or work injury.  Many people wait hoping that the injury is minor and that it will heal in a few days.  While this may be true the accident and work injury should still be reported immediately!  It creates suspicion by the employer if a week or two after your accident you then tell the supervisor of the incident.  In fact most employer manuals or introductory material that is issued upon hire says that all accidents should be reported immediately.  I know that many workers fear for their job and therefore wait before reporting a work injury.  Waiting does not protect you.  It protects your employer’s pocket.  So, report your work injury shortly after it happens and if you need medical attention, ask for it.


2.  Don’t let the employer just send you to the doctor that they choose for your work injury.


            If you need medical attention for your work injury ask to see the “posted panel of physicians”.  By law the panel should be posted in a prominent place, such as an employee break room.  Often times the panel is posted but it does not list any doctors.  If this is the case take a picture of the panel with your phone so that you can later prove that the employer did not comply with the law.  The employer also will have the panel in a drawer, which is also not in compliance with the law.  If the employer pulls the list from a drawer make a note of who gave it to you, when it was given to you and the conversation that took place.


            If the employer does not have a panel listing of at least six doctors in a prominent place then it is invalid and you are allowed by law to see a doctor of your choosing for your work injury. The employer will almost always just send you to an industrial clinic such as Concentra and never give you the opportunity to choose from the list.  And, the employer certainly will not acknowledge that you can see your own doctor for your work injury because they do not have a list.  You have a right to choose from the list so ask for it and then choose.  It would be wise to ask for a copy of the list and then to call a lawyer and ask about the doctors on the panel.  At Sunne Law we are familiar with the good and bad doctors and you want to make sure that you choose the best doctor on the list for your work injury.  Certainly if the employer’s panel is invalid you must contact an attorney so that the doctor you choose will be the best for your treatment and your work injury claim.


3. Ask the employer for the workers’ compensation insurance information for your work injury.


            The insurance adjuster controls the claim so you need to know your adjuster.  Ask the employer for the workers’ compensation insurance information, the company name, the adjuster, the adjuster’s phone number.  Keep this information in an easily accessible place.  You will want to call the adjuster and confirm when you will be receiving checks for your work injury and to assure that your medical treatment is authorized and your prescriptions will be authorized at the pharmacy of your choosing.  Once you hire an attorney for your work injury they will talk with the adjuster on your behalf.  I think it is essential that the injured worker consult with an attorney to make sure that the insurance adjuster is complying with the law.  I have seen many cases where the adjuster has actually not been completely straightforward about the injured worker’s rights, such as the right to mileage reimbursement.


4. Don’t agree to a nurse case manager for your work injury until you have spoken with a lawyer.


            After an injured worker is authorized to begin treating a nurse case manager will suddenly appear on the case.  The nurse case manager will tell the injured worker that she is neutral and only there to assist the worker with his or her needs.  Rarely does the nurse case manager tell the injured worker that her participation is voluntary, that the injured worker must agree in writing to her.   The nurse case manager does help coordinate medical but she also advocates for a swift return to work, even if the injured worker has not seen much improvement. 


            You have a right to decline the nurse case manager’s participation.  If you do agree to have her work on your claim then you should never let her sit in with you at your doctor’s appointments.  If you have been injured and contacted by a nurse case manager or rehabilitation consultant then you need to contact a lawyer to discuss your rights.  Frankly, if a nurse case manager is assigned to your case by the insurance adjuster you need a lawyer to protect your rights.  This would certainly be a tipping point to indicate that you need someone on your side to advise you and to advocate for you. 



*** If you feel as though you are need of an attorney to help you with your claim, please contact Atlanta Bar Association's Lawyer Referral and Information Service at 404-521-0777. ***

Tags:  employee  employer  employment  injury  job  lawsuit  work  workers compensation 

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