Safety and OSHA News

Should injured employee receive more workers’ comp for complex regional pain syndrome?

Here’s a classic case of what happens when doctors differ on the diagnosis of an injured employee in a workers’ comp case. 

Ian Rude suffered an injury to his right shoulder during firefighter training in April 2015. He received workers’ comp benefits, including physical therapy for his shoulder injury, but he continued to have pain.

Two orthopedic surgeons who evaluated Rude noted he had symptoms consistent with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). They referred him to CRPS specialists.

Two specialists thought Rude had CRPS, two didn’t. The question of whether Rude should receive additional medical treatment and temporary total disability benefits went before an administrative law judge.

The ALJ chose to accept the testimony of Dr. Carlos Roman, who specializes in pain management, over the others. Dr. Roman was the only one to review surveillance video of Rude using his right hand to hold various items and open car doors.

The doctor explained that in the video, Rude didn’t show any restraint in the use of his right arm and hand. Dr. Roman also noted tests that help identify CRPS came back negative.

Based on Dr. Roman’s opinion, the ALJ concluded Rude had failed to meet his burden of proving he was entitled to additional medical treatment and temporary total disability benefits. The Arkansas Workers’ Compensation Commission adopted the ALJ’s ruling. Rude appealed to a state court.

The appeals court noted:

“When the Commission chooses to accept the testimony of one physician over that of another, the appellate court is powerless to reverse the decision.”

The court added, since Dr. Roman was the only physician to view the surveillance video and was the second specialist to find Rude didn’t have CRPS, the Commission’s decision was reasonable. The court declined to overturn the Commission’s decision Rude shouldn’t receive additional workers’ comp benefits for CRPS.

(Ian Daniel Rude v. City of Bella Vista, Arkansas Court of Appeals Division I, No. CV-17-851, 2/28/18)

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  1. Tom Rezner, Ph.D.,SPHR, CSM says:

    One of the important aspects of Workers Comp is that employers/insurance companies use doctors that are respected by Judges. Usually the plaintiff attorney’s Whores for Docs will be ignored. The other thing important in these cases is to be sure you have all the medical bases covered before the plaintiff can ask for ask for treatment by a whore. If the plaintiff’s attorney can’t get him benefits then you don’t have plaintiff attorney fees awarded.

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