In Personal Injury, Worker's Comp

Any injury is bothersome for obvious reasons. Significant injuries are more than bothersome. The lasting effects of significant injuries have a greater negative impact on many areas of life than many people realize.

They include:

  • Loss of work: Not having a daily routine or sense of purpose is difficult for most people, especially those who have worked all their lives and whose occupation is a strong part of their identity. Being out of work also leads to feelings of isolation, loss of community and being “out-of-touch”.
  • Loss of income: Most people are not prepared to withstand a long period of reduced earnings (and sometimes no earnings if a claim is contested) as is the case when someone is receiving workers’ compensation benefits. Any savings are quickly depleted and then expenses have to be cut. If there are other wage earners in the family, pressure is on them to increase their earnings to make up for the injured worker’s loss of earnings. Guilt and resentment may lead to strains in relationships. Financial pressure is a leading cause of divorce.
  • Pain and Limitation: When something hurts, really hurts, it is debilitating in and of itself. Pain can be all consuming, not allowing one to focus on anything else. Experiencing on-going pain is mentally exhausting. Pain often interferes with good sleep which is so important. Limitation can be caused by pain or by the physical effects of an injury. Either way, one’s ability to complete day to day activities becomes compromised. You really don’t realize how dependent you are on the proper functioning of your body to complete even simple tasks until you are not functioning properly. It is often necessary for injured workers to require assistance from others because of their limitations.
  • Loss of physical activities: Gardening, woodworking, playing sports, hunting, hiking, motorcycle riding, boating, and skiing are just some of the common hobbies that those with significant injuries are unable to enjoy. Not only is the pleasure from these activities lost, but also the health benefits and socialization that often accompanies them.
  • Loss of health insurance: If an injured worker is out of work long enough, their employer may discontinue their healthcare coverage. In this case, the worker either has to pay for continued coverage, secure other coverage or go without coverage. This not only negatively affects the injured worker, but any family members that were also covered under the employer’s policy.
  • Litigation: Employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. Workers injured during and in the course of employment may make a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. These include medical treatment and partial compensation for lost earnings, among others. Some claims are accepted by the workers’ compensation insurance company in a timely manner and proceed relatively smoothly. Many don’t. It is often the case that claims are denied while an investigation takes place. This causes a delay in medical treatment and the receipt of monetary benefits. Injured workers often have to go through many hoops even when their cases are accepted by the workers’ compensation insurance company, including obtaining/filling out copious amounts of documentation, attending medical evaluations and attending hearings. Many find this process frustrating and stressful. Long delays are often detrimental to both financial and medical outcomes.

Some injured workers develop depression or other mental health issues as a result of their workers’ compensation injury. In my experience, these symptoms are not often reported. Many workers are embarrassed to talk about their feelings or think it is not important enough to
mention. It is important. Mental health needs to be cared for just as much, if not more than, physical health. The attorney who represents the injured worker should be told. Doctors should be made aware of any symptoms so the issue can be evaluated. This can be the doctor that sees
the injured worker for the work injury or their primary care doctor. If any mental medical diagnosis is made and found to be related to the work injury directly, then treatment will normally be required to be paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance company. If any mental medical diagnosis is made and found to be related to something other than the work injury, say the frustration over the litigation process or relationship issues, then treatment will normally not be required to be paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance company. In this case the worker will have to pursue treatment under other insurance coverage or out of pocket. Regardless, the condition should be acknowledged and treated.

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