Lower back injuries on the job represent the most common type of workers’ compensation claim. If you hurt your back lifting a heavy object or because of a fall, you need to find out whether your injury is a strain that will go away with a few day’s rest, or whether you have a much more serious disc injury in your spine.
Medically, it can be difficult to know if your injury is serious without an expensive diagnostic test like an MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) or a CT (computerized tomography) scan. An x-ray, by the way, will not reveal much about disc injuries.
In a workers’ compensation case, our experience has been that insurance companies do not want to pay for MRIs or CT scans until they are forced to do so. Typically, when you experience a back injury, your HR supervisor will send you to a posted panel doctor (often an industrial clinic) who will take an x-ray or two, diagnose a “back strain” and prescribe a day or two of rest, before releasing you back to full duty work.
If your pain level does not improve the posted panel doctor may prescribe a few week’s worth of physical therapy and send you back to work with light duty activity restrictions.
Delay Will Case Your Medical Condition to Get Worse
If your back pain does not improve with rest, or if physical therapy makes your pain worse, it is time to find out what is really going on – using an MRI or CT scan to evaluate your vertebrae and discs. This is especially true if you are experiencing troubling symptoms, which you should see as serious warning signs:
- pain radiating down one or both legs
- trouble urinating
- trouble with sexual function
- urinary or bowel incontinence
- numbness anywhere in the lower body
- pain that cannot be controlled with medications
These symptoms may indicate nerve damage and possibly the need for surgery. Delay in treatment can result in permanent impairment and permanent nerve damage.
The insurance company, however, may have different ideas. They will often insist that you continue treating with the industrial clinic doctor who they will pressure not to order expensive diagnostic test. The insurance company will also pressure the industrial clinic doctor to minimize the seriousness of your injury and to avoid putting you on “no work” status.
The insurance company may also hire a private investigator to follow you around in an effort to generate photographic or video evidence showing you lifting or carrying things, or moving without difficulty.
Meanwhile, if you are not able to use the legal system to force the insurance company to authorize a skilled specialist, appropriate diagnostic tests and necessary treating (possibly including surgery), you are more likely to end up with permanent injury that cannot be fixed even with surgery.
Make no mistake: the insurance company wants you to go away – either to give up out of frustration or to eventually settle for pennies on the dollar. I recently posted on my blog a news story about the disgraceful treatment given to an legitimately injured worker in another state. I encourage you to take a look at this short video to get a sense about how injured workers are often treated.
How Ginsberg Law can Help
You may find this hard to believe, but workers’ compensation claims are some of the most hotly contested cases seen in Georgia. For a system designed to reduce the need for litigation, work injury claims in Georgia are about as adversarial as divorce or child custody cases.
Sometimes insurance companies need just a little nudge to recognize that someone (your lawyer) is watching what they do, and sometimes, we end up in full scale litigation.
Unfortunately, if you trust your employer to “do the right thing,” you are likely to be disappointed. While we treat opposing counsel and opposing insurance adjusters respectfully, we will never back down in our efforts to get for you:
- quality medical care with a doctor not controlled by the insurance company
- lost wage benefits
- mileage reimbursement
- physical therapy and rehabilitation
- necessary medications
- a fair settlement if you want to settle and only when your case is at the right point for settlement
If you have experienced a low back injury and you sense that the medical issues are significant, please reach out to me at 770-351-0801 or by email using the form on this page.