Grenada, MS (WorkersCompensation.com) – An employee’s statements to his own doctor can sometimes reveal whether his workers’ compensation claim is genuine, or just an effort to avoid a job he doesn’t like.
The latter might have been the case in Duren v. Effex Management Solutions, LLC, No. 2021-WC-00337-COA (Miss. Ct. App. 06/07/22), in which a general laborer employed by a staffing company sought permanent partial disability benefits, but “made it pretty clear,” according to his treating physician, that he didn’t want to return to his job.
In July 2016, the laborer was building an air conditioning coil when he fell off a table and injured his back. His treating physician found that the laborer suffered a herniated disc but could return to work with some restrictions.
By March 2017, according to the physician, the laborer had reached maximum medical improvement, and could go back to his job with no restrictions. But the laborer, for his part, repeatedly left work early, claiming he could not continue due to lingering back and leg pain from his accident. The company terminated him.
The laborer obtained workers’ compensation benefits through March 2017. However, an administrative judge and the workers’ compensation commission denied his claim for permanent partial disability. The laborer appealed the commission’s decision.
In Mississippi, the court explained, subjective complaints of debilitating pain may support a claim of disability, even if they are not supported by medical proof. But this is only the case if the complaints are credible.
In this case, the court stated, the ALJ found the laborer’s complaints lacked credibility. The court agreed, pointing to the treating physician’s statements that the medical data didn’t reveal any basis for the laborer’s subjective pain. The physician’s conclusions, supported by the opinions of two other doctors, negated the laborer’s assertion that the injury persisted beyond March 17, the court concluded.
In fact, the treating physician appeared to believe that the laborer’s greatest barrier to working was not pain from his fall, but an aversion to his job. When the doctor asked the laborer where the pain was located in his leg, for example, the laborer allegedly indicated “My whole leg hurts”– a statement, the court observed, which the physician thought made little sense from a medical standpoint.
Further, the doctor “testified that ‘from the get-go,’ [the laborer] ‘made it pretty clear’ that he did not want to go back to work at his former job,” the court wrote. The doctor testified that the laborer’s complaints and behavior were consistent with what he had seen from other patients who “utilize [Workers] Comp and are malingering.”
The court added that a second physician concluded that MRI and CT scans showed no evidence of any structural abnormality that was consistent with the laborer’s complaints.
Finally, the court noted that the employee never pursued physical therapy after the treating physician recommended it—conduct that further undermined the laborer’s claim that he was still hurting.
The court affirmed the commission’s decision denying the employee permanent partial disability benefits.