Lessons Learned Trying to Gain Workman’s Comp: Part 2: Having a Previous Injury
If you didn’t read Part 1: “The Company Doctor”, click here to read it,
Allow me to share with you a brief of my medical history.
In 1996 I was involved in an accident that caused me to have my left arm broken in two places and my left leg also broken. Thirty surgeries and a severe infection in my leg left me with what is called a “chronic fracture” in my left leg. Essentially it means that I have a hairline fracture in my left leg which will never heal. I also have a metal plate in my left arm which will stay there for the rest of my life.
For my leg I take pain medication and an anti-inflammatory. During my physical for the job I was truthful and released all of my medical history. The only issue that came up was whether or not I would be able to operate the machinery in a safe manner while on my pain medication.
Understand that when I began this job I started as a temporary and remained a temp for four months. Obviously I was operating the machines just fine because they wanted to hire me on full time. However the company doctor wanted more proof. So I went to an industrial medicine doctor and took a “fit for duty” physical.
With notes from my primary care physician and the industrial medicine doctor stating I could in fact operate the machinery in a safe manner, the company doctor allowed me to take the physical evaluation (a fancy term that meant could I lift at least fifty pounds). I passed it just fine. With the best anti-inflammatory drugs in my system, my leg still swells up like a balloon and can easily reach 2-3 times its normal size. The company doctor was witness to this as my physical took place after work one day.
As a sort of a “fine print” addition to my medical records, the company doctor stated that if I was ever hurt on the job with a leg injury I would be unable to file a workman’s comp claim. I later learned this was certainly not the case, but this does show you the length a company doctor will go to mislead employees.
At the conclusion of the physical, the company doctor stated that if I preferred the convenience that she offered with her being able to come and see me at my place of work, that she would be more than happy to begin writing all of my medications for me. Little alarm bells went off only because she was so concerned earlier about me taking my meds, and now she wants to start writing them for me. To this date one of the only correct decisions I made was declining her offer and sticking with my primary care physician.
With hind sight always being 20/20, I realized that all she was attempting to do was keep a closer eye on me.
As I mentioned in my previous article my next interaction with her came well over a year later when I was having back pain. All because I did not have a $10 co-pay on me at the time I chose to see her one day instead of my regular doctor. At the time I thought nothing of it however by the end of the visit I realized all she was doing was making notes in order to attempt to prevent me from ever gaining a workman’s comp case even though it was not even on my mind at the time.
Many doctors, including my own, keep very poor notes. Half of what you discuss is never actually entered into their notes. However, trust me when I tell you that a company doctor is keeping very good notes and they are biased.
More Back Pain
About five months after the one and only time I saw the company doctor, work had really been pouring it on. We were hitting multiple weeks of seven day work weeks and 12 hour days. My back was in severe pain. I wasn’t even sure if I could make it through another night of 12 hours. Also, my right leg was going numb. So following what I thought was correct procedure (at least this is what I was told was correct) at the time, I went to see the company doctor.
With severe lower back pain, her diagnosis was “exhaustion”. Granted, I was indeed exhausted from the hours we were working, but exhaustion was hardly what was wrong with me.
She authorized me to receive a week’s worth of FMLA (Family Medical Leave Act) and after telling her something was wrong that what was going on was more than exhaustion, she finally wrote orders to have an MRI performed on my lower back.
When the results of the MRI came back, I found out that I had fluid building up on my spine and also had a pinched nerve that was causing my right leg to go numb. She did tell me that judging from the MRI my right leg should actually be in severe pain, but I guess I caught a break that for whatever reason I was getting numbness instead.
Mistake Number 3:
Work had strongly misled us into thinking that only the company doctor could approve FMLA leave. While in fact any doctor who is willing to fill out the required paperwork can sign off on FMLA leave. I wasn’t aware of this until later however.
There may be some of you reading this that already have this knowledge and are thinking how I could be making these mistakes. I’ll tell you. I have never had to deal with a potential workman’s comp claim and for the longest time I truly thought that if the time ever came that I would need to, then work would sign off on it. I was truly wrong.
Add to the fact that we as employees were misled and lied to (intentionally or not) about the medical leave procedure. If you go and see the company doctor first, they get a heads up on what is wrong and can begin the note taking in your file to convolute the process. The deck was stacked against me from the beginning.
After my week off for family leave, I had went back to receive my “ready to work” papers and began work once again. One month to the day, while working I had an incident at work that prompted me to actually make my claim for workman’s comp.
To view the rest of my reports about my battle with workman’s compensation, please go to my profile and subscribe to my articles. This way you can be updated when the rest are published.
Lessons Learned Trying to Gain Workman’s Comp: Part 1: The Company Doctor