Is my previous employer liable for future complications of a previous injury?
(Little Lake, MI)
I injured my back after lifting roof decking while at work. I reported it to my supervisor that same day and continued to work. After several days the pain in my back and left leg was getting so bad I had a hard time walking. At that point I took a voluntary day off as I thought it was a strain or pull.
I went to a chiropractor 5 times but nothing was getting better. Then I went to the company safety director and he had me go see the company doctor. The doctor scheduled me for a MRI. The results were not conclusive, saying that I had a potential annular tear at the L5-S1 vertebrae. The company doctor recommended physical therapy and I agreed to try it.
I did go back to work in a supervisory position, being on my feet roughly 6 hours a day. I went to physical therapy 3 times a week for 4 weeks, at which point I saw the doctor and he asked me how I was doing. I told him I was feeling much better than before. After that statement to the doctor I received a call from the therapy office stating that the workers comp insurance company said I'd had enough physical therapy.
I told the doctor and anyone who'd listen that the injury on my back was still there and that my left leg was still feeling the burning sensations. The original injury happened 09/07/2010. I saw the company doctor for the first time on 10/18/2010 and I retired December 1, 2011.
My question is: Is the company I worked for still liable for any future problems or complications I have because of this injury? Thank you.
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ANSWER for "Is my previous employer liable for future complications of a previous injury?":
Leonard (Little Lake, MI):
It probably is. In addition to the MRI (Magnetic Resonance Imaging) examination, an EMG (Electromyography) exam might have been useful. An EMG can assist a physician in evaluating and recording electrical activity of the nerves surrounding your back muscles. During the Electromyograph the targeted skeletal muscles are electrically stimulated, or "charged". That charging allows the physicians to detect abnormalities of the muscle cells.
Your injury occurred "on the job". Therefore your employer's workers compensation insurance should provide coverage for your medical and chiropractic needs.
The problem you are facing is the insurance company's decision to terminate additional payments for your medical treatment chiropractic therapy. Once an insurance company makes up its mind it is quite difficult to change it.
You have two options:
A) The first will be to see your own physician in an effort to determine if your injuries can be medically documented. You mentioned the first MRI result was inconclusive. To be able to convince the insurance company to reopen your case and agree to pay for additional medical treatment or chiropractic therapy, you will need convincing evidence.
Another MRI or EMG might be necessary to do that. If your doctor will agree to schedule an MRI, EMG, or both, and this time the results indicate you have a tear at the L5-S1 vertebrate or nerve damage, you will probably be able to convince the insurance company to reopen your case.
You may also be able to convince the insurance company to reimburse you for the additional MRI, EMG and doctor's bills you incurred on your own.
B) Your second option will be to sue the insurance company for "bad faith" denial of your claim. You won't be suing your former employer. The laws and regulations governing workers compensation claims prohibits you from doing so, but the same laws and regulations do not prohibit you from filing a bad faith lawsuit against the insurance company.
What the case boils down to is whether or not you are still suffering from the accident, and can produce verifiable and credible medical evidence to prove it. We know you are still suffering. Now you need to prove it.
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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