We attorneys would all like to boast perfect success rates. But in reality every case ends with success and loss. That means attorneys sometimes have to deliver the bad news. In fact, in workers’ compensation, even good news can be bad news. For example, successfully getting a claim accepted for treatment also means the injured worker must acknowledge a life altering injury and accept that there will be a long road to recovery. Similarly, being placed on a pension, a significant monetary benefit, means that you’ve lost all reasonable wage earning capacity.
As you can imagine legal successes in workers compensation aren’t always cause for celebration. Even with the best outcomes, injured workers aren’t always satisfied. As a result, I truly cherish conversations like the one I had today. A client shared how a new volunteer opportunity restored joy and meaning to his life. This kind of joy is far greater than any claim related outcome will ever be. I’m glad clients allow me the opportunity to share in these kinds of joys. It helps me get through the darker days when all news seems like bad news.
Ever since January 2013, any medical providers treating injured workers in Washington State have been required to be part of the Medical Provider Network (MPN). This includes physicians, chiropractors, naturopathic physicians, podiatrists, ARNPs, PAs, dentists and optometrists.
Over the past few days I’ve spent some time introducing myself to local MPN members that treat the injured workers I represent, and it has been a wonderful experience. I have really enjoyed meeting other professionals who are equally committed to helping injured workers successfully navigate through their claims.
What I’ve learned from these conversations is that I share many of the same concerns, frustrations, and challenges as the medical providers treating injured workers. As a result, I’m looking forward to continuing collaborative dialogues with these providers in an effort to find solutions for our shared concerns, frustrations and challenges, as we work together to achieve productive claim progress and appropriate outcomes for the injured workers we help.
One of my frustrations is when clients fail to show up for scheduled meetings like an L&I vocational meeting or hearings. They don’t answer calls or return messages, and don’t respond to letters. Luckily this happens as an exception and not a rule. But as an attorney it puts me in the difficult position of having to simultaneously avoid breaking any rules of professional conduct while looking out for my clients’ best interest.
To remedy the situation, I start by turning over every stone to locate my client. Having emergency contact information on file is always a good start. Sometimes the search includes contacting medical providers, checking jail rosters, and driving to the client’s house. If all else fails, I may have no option but to send a certified letter noting I’ll have to withdraw my representation if the client does not contact me by a certain date.
This is very frustrating, and I wonder how people don’t know the importance of staying in contact with their attorney when so much is at stake. I also wonder what I should do differently to prevent this from happening. However, when all is said and done, I’m usually reminded that injured workers have found themselves in some of life’s most challenging circumstances making even simple things like communication, difficult.