We have a discussion forum here on WorkersCompensation.com that, while open to anyone, is dominated by injured workers. Posting activity has slowed during the pandemic, but historically it has been a very active area for people to ask questions and learn about workers’ comp. In its current format, since 2007, the board has generated 15,915 threads containing 162,198 posts generated by 17,452 registered users. It is an education in waiting for anyone who wants to see the mindset and experience of injured workers’ thrust unexpectedly into the comp system.
Two separate posts caught my eye this week. Both were stating that it has been about a month since their injury, and they have yet to hear from the person managing their claim. Their calls have not been returned, including one to a supervisor. They can’t get scheduled for medical care, and don’t know what to do. They didn’t want to do it, but both posters had no choice but to hire a lawyer. One of the posts went so far as to accuse the employer of “probably having no insurance” and “hiring this company after the fact to cover their tracks.” Paranoia is no stranger in our discussion forum.
I had intended to come on here today and criticize the situation while opining on the importance of clear, concise, and timely communication, but a sharp-eyed forum member spotted something I hadn’t. They probably helped me avoid embarrassing myself.
And as many of you know, I need all the help in that area I can muster.
The two posts, in different threads, were from the same user. And our board system links all posts that a user has made previously. It probably won’t surprise some of you, but it seems this current injury is not this specific worker’s first rodeo. It turns out this confused, befuddled, and hapless injured worker, unable to understand the system and reluctant to hire a lawyer, has actually posted over 30 times on our board, most relating to an injury they had back in 2015. An injury they settled with the help of their attorney that same year.
Now, we certainly understand that old injuries can often contribute to new ones, or that a new unrelated injury can occur. We don’t have a particular issue with the notion that a person who settled an old claim may once again find themselves in the workers’ comp system. But when the basis of your question appears to neglect small facts – like “I’ve been here before” – and instead draws an image of confused helplessness, curiosity and doubt are going to creep into the picture. That doubt has the words “frequent flyer” written all over it.
I have often told audiences, when talking about the importance of timely communication, that “in the absence of clear and transparent information, cancerous thoughts will grow.” That is certainly true with injured workers’ thrown into a complex and confusing system that they just do not understand. But this time, I find the cancerous thoughts about this individuals situation entering my own realm of suspicion. When things are not as they appear, or people are not forthcoming about their full situation, reputation suffers.
That is as important for injured workers to remember as it is for the professionals who serve and assist them. Communication is a two-way street, and the injured worker is not exempt from that responsibility.
Transparency and honesty are essential. Otherwise people suffer, when it is discovered that things are not always as they seem.