From one perspective, it doesn’t matter what a job injury victim says to a workers’ comp doctor. Most doctors only listen to most patients for about eleven seconds. So, no matter what you say, the doctor most likely isn’t listening. From another perspective, doctor-patient conversations mean a lot. Lying to a doctor is evidence of workers’ compensation fraud. Most authorities in most states don’t need much evidence to launch full-blown fraud prosecutions.
An open and honest relationship with a doctor, even a company doctor, is the best way for these injury victims to get back on the job. Doctors need to know what’s wrong with their patients before they can properly diagnose and treat them. So, saying the wrong thing isn’t just detrimental to your legal claim. It could also be detrimental to your personal health.
Be Honest About Your Medical History
My mother always told me “be sure your lies will always find you out.” I’m not sure if that’s an actual proverb or something she came up with on her own. Either way, the statement was generally true. It’s nearly always true in this context.
Many job injury victims aren’t forthright about pre-existing medical conditions. They believe the insurance company won’t pay in these cases.
That belief is understandable but downright wrong. The eggshell skull rule, a well-established legal principle, applies in workers’ compensation cases. Some people have eggshell skulls, glass jaws, genetic predispositions, or other inherent physical weaknesses. No state allows insurance companies to use a pre-existing condition against a victim in court. That’s like bullying a kid in the schoolyard because he’s shorter than the other kids.
Let’s go back to my mother’s aphorism. Almost all hospitals now have access to electronic health records. After a few keystrokes, a doctor sees your entire medical history. S/he instantly knows you lied, and all possibility of trust evaporates.
Be Honest About Your Symptoms
In a nutshell, job injury victims shouldn’t exaggerate their symptoms. They also shouldn’t go too far the other way and gloss over them.
Some victims exaggerate their symptoms, usually to extend the injury recovery process and extend their financial benefits. Once again, doctors usually detect these lies. Once again, trust quickly evaporates.
These financial benefits usually include medical bill payment and lost wage replacement. If their injuries were work related, victims need not prove negligence or fault to obtain these benefits. Some victims have additional legal options.
Glossing over symptoms is much more common. That’s especially true if the victim sustained a head injury. The brain conceals its own injury symptoms. Additionally, glossing over symptoms is often a natural reaction. Most victims are anxious to get back to work, even if that means saying the wrong thing to their workers’ comp doctors.
On a related note, victims shouldn’t lie to themselves about their symptoms. Treatment delay usually lowers the chances of a full recovery.