An Australian investigation into that country’s workers’ compensation system shines a disturbing light on a labor problem that is universal, even in Nebraska: Insurers will delay, deny, and defend their clients to avoid paying rightful benefits to injured employees.
“Although this worker is in Australia, the problems, the fight, and his story is almost exactly the same as what injured workers in Nebraska face,” said David M. Handley, JD, a workers compensation attorney for Watson & Carroll, P.C., L.L.O. The firm has offices in Omaha, Lincoln, and Sioux City.
“This worker apparently was denied benefits at some point in his claim. As such, he faced the same choice many of my clients face. Do I go back to work even though I really can’t do my job? Even though what I do may result in my death or injury or the death or injury of others?” Handley said.
The investigation into QBE Insurance Group – which also insures Nebraska employers – was conducted by three media outlets in Australia. The journalists unveiled doctor shopping, missing files, altered evidence, and other tactics after a prison guard and two of his colleagues had filed a claim against their employer alleging bullying and harassment. The key claimant, Brett Fitzpatrick, had suffered a series of work-related mental health injuries, his doctors had found.
Even so, Fitzpatrick’s employer instructed QBE to deny his claim for workers’ compensation so he “would think he had no choice but to return to work,” according to the reports. There were several recommendations and findings that were removed from a final report, along with the conversation outlining the plan to deny the claim.
Since then, Australian workers’ compensation regulator SIRA has now commissioned its own investigation into the matter.
The investigation has found that such tactics and questionable practices were “making workers sicker” in Australia.
Sadly, it happens everywhere, including to Watson & Carroll clients, Handley said.
“While this is a story out of Australia and the laws are likely different than what we have in Nebraska, the fact remains that the purpose of workers’ compensation benefits is universally the same,” he said. “The purpose is to get no-fault benefits distributed quickly to injured workers so the effects of a work injury are lessened. If you can get an injured worker quick medical treatment and money to pay their bills, they are more likely to heal quickly and return to work. This is why we have workers’ compensation benefits.”
Whether the insurer is QBE or some other insurance company, the games that are played against injured workers are typically the same. Handley said he has personally witnessed doctor shopping, delaying evidence, denying treatment without cause, delaying or denying monetary compensation without cause, and adjusters that go missing while their files linger. He’s also seen workplace bullying and harassment similar to what the Australian guard experienced at work.
“While these behaviors are appalling and deserving of investigation, this is nothing new in the workers’ compensation arena. This is especially true in cases that are difficult for an injured worker to prove,” Handley said.
Symptoms like pain, headaches, dizziness, nausea, vision disturbances, tinnitus, post traumatic stress disorder (“PTSD”), memory loss, depression, anxiety and other injury-related problems are difficult if not impossible to measure, see, or record. As such, insurers hire doctors to say the person does not experience those symptoms, should not experience those symptoms – and is lying if they say they are.
The best way to stand up to an insurer and win your work comp claim is to seek the help of an attorney.
“Since the symptoms truly cannot be seen or quantified, it can be very difficult to counter their doctor’s arguments,” Handley said. “With the help of an experienced lawyer though, it’s not impossible to fight.”
A Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help You Win Your Injury Claim
The workers’ compensation attorney at Watson & Carroll P.C., L.L.O., will advocate for your right to receive benefits after your work injury. Call us today at 402-234-8787. You also can share your story here.
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About Watson & Carroll, P.C., L.L.O.
Watson & Carroll, P.C., L.L.O., is not a high-volume law firm that only speaks with clients when it is absolutely necessary. For us, it’s personal. Our team works closely with our clients and their loved ones – not only so that we understand their challenges and concerns, but so we can tailor our approach to address those factors, aggressively pursue results, and secure peace of mind. Whether it is a workers’ compensation case, a personal injury claim, a medical malpractice case, or advocating for disability benefits, we work to protect our clients and make sure their rights are upheld. Our firm can help. Call 402-234-8787 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can fill out our confidential form here.