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A reader told us the following problem that is somewhat rare, but does happen enough that it’s worth writing about:
My fiancé went to a doctor with terrible back pain and wasn’t sure what the problem was. It could have been from the wear and tear of his job or just something he had. The doctor told him that it was something that happened at work. So he said it was work related. Then the second doctor that doctor recommended him to did a bunch of tests and said it was not work related but couldn’t diagnose it. So now neither insurance will cover his bills.
The question I first had was is either doctor referred by the insurance company. If that was the case then it would just be a matter or taking depositions and going to trial. Unfortunately both doctors were chosen by the injured worker.
The second question I had was either doctor an orthopedic doctor. When you have a back injury like this worker does, the opinion of an orthopedic doctor would be more credible. Unfortunately the first doctor was a family doctor and the second one who said this isn’t work related is an orthopedic. So as it stands right now, he has no case. You can’t go doctor shopping until you find a doctor who will say what you want. Well you can, but it won’t look good.
He thought that was that, but this is where having a lawyer could have saved him a lot of trouble and hopefully will still save him. This guy has been a heavy duty laborer for around 15 years and he’s a relatively young guy. To win his case he doesn’t need to show that his job is the only reason he has back problems, he just has to show that it’s a contributing factor.
What I think happened here is two things: 1. He didn’t give the orthopedic doctor a detailed description of what he does every day for work. How much he lifts, how often he does it, how long he’s been doing it for, what he notices about his back at the end of a long work day, the way he positions himself when he lifts, etc. 2. He didn’t ask the doctor if the job played a role in his back problems.
Many doctors don’t know the law nor should they. It’s our job as lawyers to help you ask them the right questions. I can’t imagine that this orthopedic wouldn’t say that all of this lifting over a decade didn’t play any role in the back pain issues. If he does then it’s a winning case.
For this worker, not knowing the law is a pretty big risk. He’s likely going to have to find a new career and without the assistance of work comp benefits he could go from making over $40 an hour to minimum wage. Beyond that he’d get buried in medical bills.
Bottom line is that when two doctors disagree it can hurt you, but it’s not the end of the world, at least not if you know what the law is.