Atlanta Workers’ Comp Lesson Number 1: Check Your Mail

Full-MailboxReady Mix USA can testify that one of the quickest ways to lose a workers’ comp case is to ignore a notice sent by the Georgia Courts. After failing to show for a worker’s compensation hearing for one of their employees, Terrell B. Ross, both Ready Mix and their insurance company, Liberty Mutual, found themselves paying for full temporary disability benefits.

As you might imagine, Ready Mix and Liberty Mutual did not go down without a fight. Shortly after a small oversight turned into a hefty bill, both companies banded together and tried to have the hearing vacated. Their reasoning? The courts hadn’t provided adequate notice.

Now, let’s take a look at where this all started. In December 2009, Terrell Ross noticed pain and tightening in his back while swinging a sledgehammer. He followed the rules and immediately reported this to his supervisor. (His supervisor did not follow the rules, and failed to refer him to one of Ready Mix’s appointed physicians.)

One week later, Ross noticed pain in his lower back, and took the opportunity to gently remind his employer of the previous injury report. This time, Ross’s supervisor sent him for a medical evaluation, where he was diagnosed with lumbar and thoracic strain resulting from his occupation. The physician recommended that Ross be put on light duty, and prescribed pain medication and physical therapy for treatment. Several weeks later, Ross went to see a physician who specialized in such treatments; this doctor requested that Ross undergo a surgical MRI.

After seeing the results of the MRI, the physician sent Ross to an orthopedic spine specialist, who recommended facet injections—a treatment that would take Ross out of commission until May 2010. Ross’ work status was recorded as “totally disabled” until the workers’ comp board approved the facet injection treatment.

At this point, Ross requested a hearing with the administrative law judge (ALJ) to ask for permission for an MRI, facet injections, TTD benefits, attorneys’ fees, and a 15% penalty for nonpayment. In addition, he served both Ready Mix USA and Liberty Mutual with discovery requests.

When the hearing rolled around in July 2010, both Ready Mix and Liberty Mutual were no-shows. (Even worse, they provided no responses to Ross’s request for discovery documents.) Ross testified before the ALJ, and was promptly given everything he asked for.

Shocked by the turn of events, Ready Mix USA and Liberty Mutual claimed that they hadn’t received adequate notice for the hearing, and insisted that the ALJ vacate the hearing and allow them to “amend” their responses to the Ross’s request for discovery.

Unsurprisingly, the ALJ refuted both companies’ motions. After all, they had been notified by both e-mail and snail mail—and the court had physical records of mailing the notices, meaning that the onus was entirely on Ready Mix and Liberty Mutual.

The moral of the story here, ladies and gentlemen, is that ignorance is not always bliss, and that you should always check your mail—especially if you’re in the middle of a workers’ comp case.

Contact Atlanta workers’ comp lawyer Michael Moebes at (404) 354-5432 for legal advice.

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