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Charlotte Work Accident Lawyer Warns: Workers’ Comp Does Not Protect Rights to Medical Privacy

Anyone who has ever suffered an on-the-job injury can attest to the value of the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation (WC) system. This system helps ensure that individuals can receive medical attention without facing costly medical bills even if their own negligence contributed to their injuries while at work.

In order to provide that protection, however, the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act (“the Act”) requires injured workers to submit to all requested medical examinations in order to maintain qualification for WC benefits. Failure to submit to these exams can result in suspension of benefits.

Additionally, the resulting information can be shared freely with the Industrial Commission. If an employer or insurer uses this requirement excessively, it can raise questions about a patient’s rights to medical privacy.

Reasons Why Additional Examinations May be Required
Naturally, any type of injury can require more than an initial doctor visit for whatever treatment is required to heal. The examinations allowed under the Act, however, primarily serve two purposes:

  • To check for pre-existing conditions: Sometimes, prior medical conditions appear to contribute to injuries that might not have occurred otherwise. While testing for pre-existing conditions is a relatively common practice for certain injuries (such as back injuries), injured worker claims can be treated unfairly as a result of the examination findings.
  • To monitor recovery: Particularly in cases of short- or long-term disability, WC benefits only apply until such time as employees have recovered sufficiently to return to their prior jobs or to appropriate alternative positions. Of course, a medical exam may be essential in determining a worker’s ability to return to work, but doctors hired by the employer can potentially issue exam results that rush the process.

Injured employees can lose vital benefits by refusing the examinations. Just as important, in spite of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) protections against the dissemination of private health information, the information from the examinations is not privileged with respect to a claim before the Industrial Commission.

When to Seek Legal Advice
In many cases, the examinations are routine, and workers can submit to the requirements without concern. However, in the event that it appears that exam requests are excessive — or when workers are asked to pay for these visits — there may be cause for concern.

When in doubt, seek the advice of an experienced North Carolina workers’ compensation attorney before scheduling any additional exams. It costs nothing to call us at 844-452-3688 or use our convenient online contact form to learn how to proceed.