It is an unfortunate fact that many victims of debilitating injuries eventually become seriously addicted to the opioid painkillers their doctors have prescribed during the recovery process. According to a recent news article from Insurance Business, around 30 plaintiffs have filed a series of civil actions alleging defendant doctors and medical treatment facilities over-prescribed narcotic painkillers in such quantities that caused plaintiffs to become addicted to the opioid-based medications.
The majority of painkillers listed in the respective lawsuits were Vicodin, OxyContin, Lortab, and Xanax (technically a benzodiazepine), and were prescribed for injured workers who suffered on-the-job accidents and automobile injuries. They were able to do this under a recent West Virginia state court decision that allowed workers’ compensation victims to sue medical providers for allegedly over-prescribed and over-dispensing narcotic medications.
In response to these lawsuits, insurance industry consultants are trying to get workers’ compensation payers to stop allowing payment for over-prescription of painkillers, and to try to get these policy managers to require injured workers’ to go to medical clinics not known for over-prescribing painkillers.
While our Rock Hill workers’ compensation attorneys urge any workplace accident victims who are concerned about becoming addicted to painkillers to speak with doctor about these concerns, there may be some negative consequences from allowing insurance companies to more closely regulate which doctor an accident victim can see.
It is obvious that medical malpractice insurance carriers are worried about the costs of lawsuits against their clients for over-prescribing painkillers, and the basis of their concerns is more about protecting profitability than an injured workers’ well-being. The risk in this is that, if a workers’ compensation insurance company can force an injured worker to go a particular doctor or clinic that will not prescribe narcotics, they may also have freedom to select providers who will not perform other procedures in an attempt to keep costs down.
While most doctors exercise their independent medical judgement and would not cater to the needs of an insurance carrier, it is reality that many medical procedures are expensive, and there are certain clinics that rely upon a large volume of business from insurance company referrals.
While these are not present in many cases, when this does occur, it can add additional stress to an injured worker and even delay a workers’ recovery. One of the specific issues that may arise deals with what is known as maximum medical improvement (MMI). A doctor may try a variety of different medical procedures, but will eventually determine whether it will be cost effective in terms of the relative benefit to perform additional procedures.
One of the best things an injured worker can to do help get the maximum level of benefits allowed with respect to a particular on-the-job injury or illness is speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Having someone who is truly on your side fighting for your rights to a full and appropriate benefits award can also make the process less stressful, so an injured worker can concentrate on recovering from his or her injury.
If you have been injured at work, contact the Lee Law Offices at 800-887-1965.
Opioid addiction suit puts workers comp payers on alert , May 21, 2015, Insurance Busine
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Shubert v. Macy’s West, Inc. – Failure to Adhere to Care Plan, March 19, 2015, Rock Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Blog