I often remark that I don't understand some of the rulings from the Industrial Commission. Here's an example of one I saw recently.The attorney for the insurance company, GAB Robbins, arranged for my client to be seen for an Independent Medical Examination with a neurosurgeon. The visit went well, according to both the rehabilitation nurse and our client, but the doctor was very slow in producing the medical records from the visit. I requested the records, the defense attorney requested the records, and the rehab nurse requested them. None of us got anything from the doctor.

While this was frustrating for all of us it certainly appeared that the delay was based solely in the doctor's office. Despite this the attorney for GAB Robbins wrote to the Industrial Commission asking that our client, the injured worker, be ordered to produce the records within 15 days or face termination of her weekly checks. To her credit the defense attorney for GAB Robbins told the Industrial Commission that we had made multiple efforts to obtain the records to no avail.

To our amazement the North Carolina Industrial Commission promptly filed an Order stating that if Dr. So-and-so didn't produce the records within 15 days the injured workers checks could be terminated. How this threat against the injured worker was going to motivate the defendant's hand-picked doctor wasn't stated. Allow me to be very clear here: I don't think the Industrial Commission was trying to be unfair. The problem is that career government types don't understand the real world of dealing with doctors, adjusters, and all. That's how a skilled defense attorney can take advantage of the situation to their clients' benefit.

This article was written by Todd P. Oxner

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The short answer: No more than 25% of the benefits which the attorney gets for you. We never do that.

The long answer: Some attorneys are demanding 25% of an injured worker's checks from the moment he walks in their door. We think that is taking advantage of the workers' comp claimant. That is completely unfair. We don't take cases if we cannot add value to them -- and we don't expect to get paid until we do. You should never have to give up any of your money (which you need to live on) until the lawyer has done something for you. And filing a couple of form letters with the Industrial Commission isn't enough to earn a fee. In fact it is virtually unheard of for the NCIC to award a fee of more than 25%.

As a general rule we think it is improper for a lawyer to take a cut of your weekly check unless she actually went to a hearing to get the checks started, or if he kept the checks going at a hearing. But if an attorney asks you to pay them from the minute they represent you, or if they write a couple of letters and make some phone calls to get checks started and then want 25% of your money forever, you should seriously consider whether they are in it for your best interests or just for your money.

This article was written by Todd P. Oxner

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This article was written by Todd P. Oxner

Amy Berry spoke last week at the North Carolina Industrial Commission's 13th Annual Education Conference. This three-day affair was attended by hundred of workers' compensation adjusters, doctors, rehabilitation professionals, and attorneys. Amy spoke about recent North Carolina Court of Appeals cases affecting workers' compensation. Chip Permar also spoke last week at a North Carolina Bar Association Continuing Legal Education seminar on the issue of what constitutes an accident in workers' compensation. This seminar was so popular that the Bar Association is planning on having three video replays around the state.

Our thanks to both Amy and Chip for continuing the firm's long record of educating other workers' comp professionals.

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