Workers' Comp Doctor Falsifies Records to Deny Injured Worker's Claim
According to some estimates, roughly 255,000 workers in Florida will sustain work-related injuries. In fact, many workplace accidents can result in catastrophic injuries.
Unfortunately, injured workers in Florida don’t have many options when it comes to which doctors they can visit and receive treatment from. This is because Florida employers are required to carry workers' compensation insurance, which means the company’s insurer gets to decide the type of care injured workers receive. This can have major implications on your workers’ compensation case.
Denied Workers’ Compensation Claims
Neil Eckelberger lived in Lakeland, Florida and worked at Natural Advantage Food Flavorings. An explosion occurred while Eckelberger was at work, injuring 3 people. The force of the explosion leveled walls, collapsed ceilings, and left a giant hole in the roof of the building.
Recalling the incident, Eckelberger said, "It was the loudest noise I ever heard. There was a lot of pain, fire, smoke, chaos.”
Eckelberger was transported to Tampa General Hospital to receive treatment for severe burn injuries caused by the fire and chemicals.
According to Eckelberger’s wife, "I could tell that he had been blown up. I mean there was one doctor on this side (right side) with one arm up, there's one doctor on this side (left side) and they're just ripping skin off."
In order to treat Eckelberger’s burn injuries, pig skin was surgically implanted on his arms in order to help them heal. Although one implant was successful, the other failed. Eckelberger was sent home after spending several days in the hospital.
In total, Eckelberger suffered:
- Burn Injuries
- Neurological Injuries
- Psychological Injuries
- Orthopedic Injuries
While the care Eckelberger received at Tampa General was amazing, his employer’s workers' compensation insurance carrier offered a subpar level of medical assistance.
Treatment After the Workplace Accident
Eckelberger said he first realized his care was inadequate when his employer’s insurer sent him a home health care nurse who “was completely unqualified to deal with significant burns.” According to Eckelberger’s wife, her husband still had open wounds, and she and her kids had to wear masks to go into the room. The nurse also came to the home with hand sanitizer to treat Eckelberger’s wounds.
A spokesperson for Travelers insurance had the following to say about Eckelberger’s in-home treatment after the accident:
“Our goal is to ensure that each injured employee receives the best care available…so they can recover as quickly as medically appropriate and return to work. The selection of a treating doctor is made on an individual basis, after careful consideration of multiple factors, including state law, physician's expertise, their proximity to the employee and whether they accept workers’ compensation patients.”
Although Tampa General referred Eckelberger to several specialists for follow-up care, workers’ compensation law requires injured workers to ask their employer what doctor they can see. The doctor has to be authorized by the employer or the insurance company.
But Travelers Insurance denied Tampa General’s referrals because the doctors weren’t in the company’s network. However, Eckelberger’s attorney later found out that Travelers opted out of a network years ago, which means the company may have flat-out lied to Eckelberger.
Doctor Provides False Information
It’s been seventeen months since the explosion, and Eckelberger continues to suffer from concussion-like symptoms and gets headaches every day. Although Travelers sent a workers’ comp neurologist to visit Eckelberger, the doctor wrote reports that said Eckelberger denied having multiple symptoms, including:
- Light Sensitivity
- Blurred Vision
- Hearing Loss
Eckelberger’s wife said that this wasn’t the case at all, “Neil is lying on the table in there, he's complaining about the lights and his headaches and he's not sleeping and he's depressed and he's angry.” Eckelberger complains that a ringing sound in his ears never stops, and says that he lost hearing in his left ear. His vision also blurs at times.
Despite Eckelberger’s claims, the doctor’s reports contained no notes on his symptoms. Eckelberger’s legal team says the doctor failed to accurately document his complaints and instead provided false and misleading information to Travelers allowing the company to deny workers’ compensation benefits.
Get Help with Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
As you can see, insurance carriers have an alarming amount of power and control over the outcome of workers’ compensation cases and the type of care injured workers are able to receive. Although the main objective of Florida’s work comp system is to help injured workers obtain timely and medically necessary treatment so as to return to work as soon as possible, too often there is the strong appearance of insurance companies denying necessary treatment to avoid costs, choosing doctors with proven allegiance to the carriers’ interests, and ultimately raising profits by shifting the cost of treatment to private health care insurance or Medicare/Medicaid.
This is why it is crucial to hire an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to assist with your case. Don’t rely on your employer or their insurance company, speak to a lawyer and secure the strong legal representation you need to ensure you get the medical treatment you deserve.
At Syfrett, Dykes & Furr, we are committed to serving injured workers throughout Panama City and the Florida Panhandle. Our team of experienced lawyers are here to guide you through the entire legal process and answer all of your questions. We can review the details of your case and explain all of your options under the law. Visit our law firm today to get started building your legal strategy.
Call (850) 795-4979 to request a free consultation with a Panama City workers’ compensation lawyer.