Whitt & Del Bueno, Attorneys at Law

Leaders in defending workers' compensation claims.


Be Objective

By Mike Del Bueno

An employee’s treating physician for a worker’s compensation injury will, often times, assign disability from work to the employee. Sometimes, the disability is partial, meaning that the employee can work with restrictions. Other times, the disability is total, meaning that the employee cannot work at all.

In either disability situation, partial or total, it is important to analyze the objective medical evidence, if any, that supports the physician’s assigned disability. It is important to determine whether there is objective medical evidence to support the physician’s assigned disability because the Commission and courts may be hesitant to award compensation benefits to an injured employee for work disability that is based on the employee’s subjective complaints, rather than objective medical evidence. The objective medical evidence will usually be found in the treating physician’s office notes that detail the physical findings, if any, that are determined by the physician’s physical examination of the injured employee.

For example, if an employee with a lower back injury complains months after the fact to his treating physician of ongoing, severe, lower back and leg pain, but radiological studies of the injured employee’s lower back have ruled out any herniated lumbar spine disk, the injured employee has full range of motion in his lower back, hips and legs, and the injured employee has no atrophy or decreased sensation in his legs, any disability that physician assigns to the injured employee may well be viewed as not credible, due to the fact that it is not supported by objective medical evidence. In such a situation, a deposition that challenges or confronts the treating physician’s assigned disability may be helpful in pointing out that the disability is flawed because it is based purely on subjective complaints. An independent medical examination may be another way to challenge the “subjective” disability assigned to the injured employee by a treating physician.

If you are dealing with a disability circumstance you think may involve issues such as those discussed here, remember to be objective! We can certainly assist you in analyzing the situation with advice, tips and strategies.