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Housekeeper Hospitalized After Cleaning Mystery Substance : Injured Workers in the News #71

A Hotel Housekeeper became ill when she encountered a mysterious white powder in a hotel room.  It was reported that there was  “a “white powdery substance” near the bathroom sink and [the worker] began feeling dizzy and nauseous…”  According to the reports, tests found that the substance was not hazardous material.

This article will discuss how this type of claim would be handled from the onset within the workers’ compensation system.

After the Worker Got Hurt, What Should Happen?

In California, Employers are obligated to provide treatment.  The Hotel Worker, in this matter, would be taken to a medical facility to be treated and evaluated.  Hopefully, the Worker would receive blood, urine and drug testing.

Because of the mysterious nature of the powder, the insurance company most likely would delay in accepting liability for the claim. . The insurance company may want to know “what was in the powder?” before taking any action.  Under Labor Code 5402, the insurance company is allowed to investigate a claim for 90 days.

How Will This Case Be Proven To Be Work-Related?

In this matter, the initial medical treatment records will be important.  The worker’s medical diagnosis is critical.  The nature of the powder, however, is of lesser importance.

Even if the powder was not toxic and was benign, a Worker, seeing the powder, could have suffered an emotional reaction from that event.  This would be covered under workers’ compensation.  In that circumstance, either a psychiatric injury or physiological response to stress, i.e. aggravation of hypertension, could have occurred.

If there were an un-stress related medical diagnoses, a nexus or connection would have to be made to the substance.  Thus, medical testing, i.e. blood or urine, would be important to prove the case.   Likewise, testing of the substance would be of import.

In the end, the medical injury will be determined by a medical evaluator. A treating physician, qualified medical examiner or agreed medical examiner will offer their opinions on industrial causation.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

Injured Workers and Medical Releases: Insurance Companies Requesting Releases and Workers’ Compensation: What You Need to Know

Injured Workers are frequently requested by Insurance Carriers to sign medical release forms.   These releases are also requested by Attorneys who represent both Injured Workers and those who represent Insurance Companies.

This article will discuss workers’ compensation discovery, medical releases, the different types of medical releases, and why insurance carriers and attorneys request medical releases.

What is Discovery?

“Discovery” is a legal term. It essentially means “information gathering” within a legal system. Legal systems, such as the California Workers’ Compensation System provides laws concerning this discovery. Examples of workers’ compensation discovery include witness depositions, medical records subpoenas, and medical-legal examinations.

Records can be obtained formally and informally.  The formal was is by subpoena.  The informal way is by consent.  Consent is obtained via a signed medical release authorizing the document production.

Why Is Workers’ Compensation Discovery Unique?

Workers’ Compensation (WC) Discovery is unique in that is pace is set within the Labor Code. Labor Code Section 5402 provides that Insurance Companies have 90 days, from the date of employer discovery of the claim.

WC Discovery is used to find out a variety of information. Medical records may allow the Insurance Company to verify the injury.   Medical records can provide information about one’s medical history which can impact the Claimant’s entitlement to compensation.

Beyond workers’ compensation, there are federal rules which address medical privacy issues.  This federal law is HIPPA which created national standards to protect individual’s medical records and other personal health information.  It “generally gives patients the right to examine and obtain a copy of their own health records.”  HIPPA

Why Are Medical Releases Important for Discovery?

Labor Code Section 5402 creates urgency for the insurance companies to obtain the claimant’s information as soon as possible.  Medical releases allow for medical records to be produced in a more expeditious fashion.

Also, there releases may authorize psychiatric or drug and alcohol treatment.  A medical release must specify these records.   Releases does not require these releases.  Thus, Injured Workers, especially if the claim is not a psychiatric claim, do not and should not sign a release for these records.   This is noted in the case of Allison vs. WCAB, , it was noted that “[t]he Supreme Court ruled that although the plaintiffs waived their physician-patient confidential communication privilege (Evid. Code, § 990[Deering’s] et seq.) and their psychotherapist-patient confidential communication privilege (Evid. Code, § 1010[Deering’s] et seq.) as to the medical, emotional, and mental conditions placed by them in issue in the case, and information regarding such conditions was therefore discoverable, all medical privacy was not waived.” 64 C.C.C. 624

Is there an Obligation to Provide a Release?

There is no obligation for an Injured Worker to provide a release to an Insurance Company.   Again, with psychiatric or drug and alcohol treatment releases, these should be scrutinized whether they are relevant.

What Happens If I Do Not Sign Releases?

Sometimes, when releases are not signed, a carrier will deny a claim based upon the lack of cooperation in discovery.   Insurance Companies also have the power to subpena records.  Therefore, they can obtain the records.  It may, however, take more time and paperwork to do so.

What If I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for over 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

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