How Insurance Companies Try To Rip Off Injured Workers: A Series – Volume 5: Impairment Ratings

In Arkansas, some workers’ compensation injuries are considered, by law, to be “permanent,” and some are not.  If an injured worker has a permanent injury, he or she may be entitled to receive a permanent impairment rating that is worth money, in the form of permanent disability benefits.  Impairment ratings are usually determined by a doctor (they can also be calculated by a Judge) who uses a book to do so that is filled with complicated tables, graphs, numbers, and charts.

Sometimes, doctors simply get the impairment rating wrong.  Often, insurance companies will try to get out of paying an impairment rating, either in whole or in part, by alleging that the rating is invalid under Arkansas law or failing to request permanent impairment all together.  Many times, an insurance adjuster will write an injured worker who has a permanent impairment and explain the rating incorrectly; misstate the law; miscalculate the benefits owed; and/or advise that the carrier is only paying some or even none of the impairment rating.  One reason insurance companies do this is because they know most injured folks have no idea about how impairment ratings work, and no idea how to correctly value them.  Insurance adjusters also know that if there’s no impairment rating, the injured worker is going to have a very difficult time asking a Judge to award benefits for a loss of earning capacity; permanent total disability; and/or vocational retraining.  These benefits can be very valuable.

If you already have a permanent impairment rating; are in the process of getting one; think you might have one; or think you may deserve one, we’d be glad to visit with you about ratings and your rights, any time.

By:    Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

How Insurance Companies Try To Rip Off Injured Workers: A Series – Volume 4: Light-Duty Jobs

How Insurance Companies Try To Rip Off Injured Workers:   A Series –   Volume 4:    Light-Duty Jobs

Under the Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Act, employers have a statutory obligation to provide modified-duty work to injured employees who are in an active healing period and restricted from performing full-duty work, if the company is able to do so.  If the employer provides the injured worker with a light-duty job and the employee refuses to perform same, temporary disability benefits could be suspended by the insurance carrier, indefinitely.  So, how do many employers and insurance companies use this statutory duty to their advantage?  They make up the worst light-duty job available and then order the injured employee to show up and do it, hoping it will cause him or her to immediately quit.  Examples of some particularly shady light-duty jobs we have seen concocted in the past include:  1.   Cleaning all the company toilets and then washing the human resource director’s car.  2.  Feather dusting the shop, repeatedly; and then starting over and doing it again, once that’s been done.  3.  Working in a soup kitchen, 75 miles from the Claimant’s house.  4.  Sitting at a table sorting small screws, day after day.  5.   Walking around the shop in circles, sweeping with one arm.  6.  Sitting on a stool all day, in a dark room.       Should the employer do this?  No.  Can they do this?  It depends on how aggressive and experienced your workers’ compensation attorney is.  If any of this already sounds familiar or you are concerned about a potential return to light-duty work, give us a call.  We’d be happy to visit with you about your options.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

How Insurance Companies Try To Rip Off Injured Workers: A Series – Volume 3: The Nurse Case Manager

Our Workers’ Compensation Law allows and even encourages insurance carriers to hire ‘nurse case managers’ to handle and direct an injured worker’s medical care in a claim.  Although many nurse case managers are generally good people, make no mistake – they are paid agents of the insurance company, making it heavily debatable whether the nurse could ever really be a ‘neutral’ party in the case.  In a typical scenario, and as discussed in previous blogs, the nurse case manager will contact the claimant in one way or another, often times almost immediately after a work injury occurs, to say that she’s been asked to appear in the case in order to make sure the injured worker gets proper medical care.  The problem with a statement like this is the definition of “proper” medical care.  When the nurse case manager begins directing the medical care in a claim, it is fairly routine, for example, for her to shuffle the claimant away from physicians who are viewed by the insurance company as “claimant friendly”; and to start making appointments for the claimant to see doctors who are well-known in the industry to be “insurance friendly.”  The hope is that by the time the injured worker figures this out, the medical evidence in the case will have already been terminally impaired past the point of no return.  One protection against this is a treating physician who will tell a nurse case manager “no” when she tries to manipulate the claim; but doctors with this kind of backbone are few and far between.  It’s exponentially more helpful for the claimant to be able to rely upon an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who will aggressively tell the nurse “no,” if necessary, which is exactly what Hart Law does.

Have a question about your nurse case manager?  Give us a call, anytime.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

How Insurance Companies Try To Rip Off Injured Workers:  A Series – Volume 2:  Manipulating The Medical Care

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Unfortunately, under our Workers’ Compensation Law, the insurance company in a workers’ compensation case has an almost unlimited right to direct a claimant’s medical care, throughout the claim.  The insurance carrier often uses this advantage, rather immediately, to attempt to impair or terminally damage an injured worker’s case; instead of just trying to restore him or her to a state of good health.  It would be a common scenario, for example, for a recently injured claimant to first be sent to a ‘company’ doctor, well known to the employer, and who has treated many injured employees of that particular company in the past.  In some instances, the company doctor may have certain instructions from the insurance company and/or employer, such as that an MRI or other diagnostic tests are not to be ordered unless they are imminently necessary.  The insurance carrier may also hire a nurse case manager (which will be discussed in more detail in Volume 3 of this series) to further pressure the treating doctor to save costs in the claim, at the claimant’s expense.

If the company physician feels that the injured worker needs a referral to a specialist, it is very common for an insurance company to once again intervene in the medical decision making process and shift the claimant’s medical care to some other insurance doctor.  If the insurance carrier doesn’t like what the specialist has to say, it sometimes sends the claimant for an allegedly “independent” medical examination, typically conducted by – yes, you guessed it – yet another insurance doctor.  By the time the claim gets to this point, the ‘evidence’ generated by the insurance carrier many times so overwhelmingly disfavors the injured worker that the case can never be successfully revived, even by the most skilled of workers’ compensation attorneys.  Oh, but it doesn’t stop there.  Insurance companies have been known to continue paying nurse case managers, for example, to try to collect additional medical evidence, favorable to them, even when a claimant has finished treating and the case is in active litigation.

If some of all of the above sounds familiar, we’d be glad to visit with you, anytime, about how we may be able to repair your case, before it’s too late.

Neal L. Hart, Attorney at Law

How Insurance Companies Try To Rip Off Injured Workers: A Series – Volume 1: The Weekly Compensation Rate

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As outlined previously, in this blog (http://hartlawfirmllp.com/the-weekly-compensation-rate-in-workers-compensation-law/), an injured employee’s weekly compensation rate is extremely important to a workers’ compensation case, because it often represents the only source of a worker’s household income, while he or she is disabled and off work; and, generally, larger weekly compensation rates generate larger workers’ compensation settlements. Adjusters know all this, and will try to calculate the weekly compensation rate in a manner designed to make it as low as possible.  It is important, therefore, to analyze an employee’s actual wage records closely, in order make sure that the carrier’s compensation rate numbers are legally accurate; and, if they are not, to force the insurance company to adjust them (upward) accordingly.  At Hart Law, we receive (and are happy to answer) compensation rate questions from injured folks frequently, because the weekly compensation rate calculations done by an insurance company are sometimes very wrong.    

Neal Hart, Attorney at Law