Yearly Archives: 2013

The Death of Doctor-Patient Confidentiality

Workers' Compensation

As far back as we can remember patients have had the comfort of knowing that what they said to their doctors was going to be kept confidential. Sure, there were medical releases, and occasions when medical records were produced. And in workers’ compensation cases the insurance companies could send rehabilitation nurses (most of whom are upright, but more than a few see themselves as detectives for the adjusters) to the medical appointments. But even in those cases there has been a longstanding rule that the employer or the adjuster cannot simply call up the doctor behind your back and grill them or fill the doctor’s head with misinformation and distortions.

Any sense of decency and privacy came to an end with the new workers’ compensation law passed in June. And – most importantly – this part of the law is in immediate effect. That means even if the rest of your case is governed by the old law you have lost any meaningful sense of privacy thanks to the new legislature.

What can the adjuster or employer do?

1. Get any medical records that they (in their own opinion) is relevant – even in denied claims. Unfortunately the Industrial Commission routinely permits these records to include gynecology, mental health and marriage counseling matters.

2. Withhold copies of the records received for up to thirty days. There is no stated penalty for withholding them for a longer period of time.

3. Write to the doctor and ask questions about your diagnosis, treatment, work restrictions, causation, and permanent disability.

4. If, in the opinion of the adjuster or the employer, they wouldn’t be able to get an answer in writing they may call the doctor and chat him up. But they have to give you a summary of what the doctor said – within two weeks.

5. Mail the doctor additional “evidence” that they adjuster or the employer thinks would be “helpful.” This would include affidavits from company nurses or co-workers or private investigators saying that you didn’t really hurt yourself at work, or that they have seen you doing all sorts of things when you are supposed to be hurt.

Is this the end of the world? No, but it can cause a lot of headaches and embarrassment for injured workers. There are ways to fight back. In an effort to make this horrible law appear “fair” the legislature has put in some feeble safeguards. But the problem is they are so complicated that the average worker would have no idea how to protect themselves. Additionally, the section of the Industrial Commission which rules on most of these issues has a history of simply not seeing the big picture. Therefore it requires an aggressive and vigilant attorney to protect you from these invasions of your privacy.

As always we are here to talk about your case and how we might be able to help you. There is never a cost or obligation for doing this.

Seven Things Which Let a Workers’ Comp Adjuster Know She’ll Probably Win Your Claim

Workers' Compensation

1. Injured Workers Without Attorneys. This is almost a no-brainer. The Workers’ Compensation Act is so complicated and so full of loopholes that it takes a serious professional to know it all. So when a seasoned adjuster goes up against an injured worker without an attorney at his side, it’s almost a guaranteed cheap settlement for the adjuster. And saving money for the insurance company is Job #1 for the adjuster.

How Oxner + Permar works to your advantage. Whether it’s getting reimbursements for your mileage; making sure your overtime, bonuses, or per diems were included in your average weekly wage; or demanding the workers’ compensation insurance company pay for your yard care or housecleaning if you cannot do it, we never let an adjuster cheap out on your case.

2. Injured Workers With Attorneys Who Aren’t Aggressive. Even better than an unrepresented injured worker is one with an attorney who doesn’t do anything. Most of their clients don’t realize how easy it to switch to an attorney who’s going to get things done. If the attorney is too slow-moving to even return phone calls or meet face-to-face with clients, he’ll never get the adjuster to back down.

How Oxner + Permar works to your advantage. We are known widely for being just about the most aggressive firm in North Carolina. Our workers’ compensation attorneys take more cases to hearings than any other – and that reputation pays off even for those whose case doesn’t need to go to hearing. Adjusters know they’ll never get rid of us easily or cheaply.

3. Knowing an Injured Worker Needs the Weekly Checks. Workers’ Compensation adjusters know the Industrial Commission lets them withhold checks for no good reason. They can do this for three weeks at a time and as often as they like if an attorney doesn’t intervene. If an adjuster can do this a few times, the injured workers will be desperate to settle – and usually for the first or second offer.

How Oxner + Permar works to your advantage. We move quickly to obtain orders from the Industrial Commission requiring timely payment to you. We’ve even filed motions to have workers’ compensation adjusters held in contempt if they continue to play games with your checks. The result is that most adjusters have learned not to bother our clients.

4. Doctors Who Will Return You to Work Without Restrictions. Experienced adjusters know this is a golden opportunity for them to cut your claim’s value immediately. So they hand-pick the doctors in advance to increase the chances this could happen to you. In most cases the Industrial Commission will let the insurance company adjuster cut off your weekly workers’ compensation checks, with little advance notice, unless you act fast to prevent it.

How Oxner + Permar works to your advantage. We’ve developed a system for combating this. As soon one of these company doctors attempts to release you without restriction, we file a series of legal documents which require the workers’ compensation insurance adjuster to hire an attorney, provide you with a visit to a new doctor, and ultimately stall off any attempt to cut your checks off.

5. The Myth That Attorneys Will Take Most of Your Settlement. This myth is spread by adjusters, doctors, and rehabilitation professionals, but it’s often far from the truth. The adjusters’ own research group found that injured workers with attorneys average settlements that are 2.7 times greater than those without a lawyer. Workers’ Compensation Adjusters know that attorneys shouldn’t charge more than 25%, so even after paying a fee the average injured worker will get more than twice as much having an attorney as they would otherwise.

How Oxner + Permar works to your advantage. Note very clearly here: We think it is a complete ripoff for attorneys to charge on ongoing benefits they didn’t get for you. We think fees should be limited to 25%. We think fees should be paid only when we win or negotiate something for you. And we don’t take cases where you’re not going to come out ahead after paying a fee.

6. Employers Who Offer Light Duty. The adjuster just wants to get you off of her payroll and back onto the company payroll as quick as possible. What happens after that isn’t her business. In fact, if your employer can find a reason to fire you then you’ll be on no one’s payroll at all. Best yet, for the adjuster anyway, is that in most situations she won’t have to put the injured ex-worker back onto weekly checks.

How Oxner + Permar works to your advantage. Just as with full-duty return to work notes, we have a system in place which immediately smothers the adjuster and the employer with legal paperwork to make sure that any proposed light duty job is legal, is beneficial to you, and does not jeopardize your claim. This is a highly complex area of the law and it is one where we’ve seen hundreds of injured workers have their claims go down the drain because they were not protected by tough lawyers.

7. Rehabilitation Nurses and Vocational Rehab Counselors Who Break the Rules. These Rehabilitation Professionals are hired by adjusters to help keep costs down. But the RPs charge as much as $85.00 per hour to do this. How does that save the adjuster money? All too often it’s because the RPs are violating the Industrial Commission’s Rehab Rules. And they do it in a way which almost always guarantees a win for the adjuster.

How Oxner + Permar works to your advantage. RPs have a begrudging respect for us. Many of them will privately concede that we make them tow a line that few other lawyers do. We keep databases of rehab professionals from different files and note their strengths, weaknesses, and areas where we’ve had to back them down. We don’t go into dealings with these people without being fully prepared, and we don’t let our clients do so either.

From the “If You Can’t Beat ‘Em, Join ‘Em” Department

Workers' Compensation

Most all of you know about our love/hate relationship with Facebook. We love it because it gives a chance to do all the stuff you do on Facebook. (Let’s face it, if I try to actually detail what I do on Facebook everyone will laugh. I don’t actually do much more than put pictures of my kids online and talk to old college friends from Canada…) What we hate about Facebook is all the trouble it causes for our clients whose taken-out-of context pictures and posts are used against them when they put in their claims.

Despite that, we are happy to announce the new Oxner + Permar Facebook page!!! We are just building it as we speak but enough of it is live now that we want you, yes YOU, to Like us! In addition to all the educational materials we have on our website we will be putting pictures and articles about our community service projects as well as our extended Oxner + Permar family. This will let us share some of our personal sides with all of you.

As many of you know we have had a policy that we did not become “friends” with clients in an effort to protect everyone’s identity. We’ve set up the page so that only the site administrators (three of us in the firm) are the only ones who will se who has “liked” us. Additionally, for the foreseeable future only the administrators will be writing on the wall. Again, we want to protect the identity and privacy of our friends.

So please “like” us and check back often so that we can keep you completely up to date on what is happening in the legal world of personal injury, social security, workers’ compensation cases, as well as what is going on at Oxner + Permar!