There are very few perfect Iowa Workers’ Compensation cases. Fortunately, the problem areas in most cases can be addressed or taken care of in whole or in part. However, the problem of a worker failing to tell the truth is difficult to fix, and frequently has serious negative consequences on the entire case.
From the time a worker first reports an injury, to the very end of the case the worker will constantly be asked questions. The opportunity to not give a truthful answer can come up in a lot of ways:
- A worker might be asked whether he has ever had chiropractic or medical care for his back before this injury. The worker thinks to himself that he has had previous back pain and treatment, but the pain and problems from this work injury are totally different, and therefore to simplify things and avoid confusion he decides not to tell about the prior back care.
- A worker might be asked whether he has ever been convicted of a crime. The worker has a conviction from several years ago that was stupidity on his part, and which he is very embarrassed by. He decides not the share the information.
- A worker is asked how the accident happened. The worker knows the accident happened because he violated a safety rule, but he doesn’t want to admit that, so he gives a version that does not have the safety violation.
- A worker is asked a question he does not know the answer to. He feels he should have an answer, so he offers a theory or guess without explaining he really does not know.
Generally in life the truth has an amazing way of coming out, and this is even more true in the workers’ compensation system. The workers’ compensation system is set up to require the parties to share information. This includes the duty of a worker to sign releases to allow the Defendants to obtain information about the worker. Therefore, the employer and insurance carrier will be able to obtain any available records concerning the worker including his medical history, criminal history, past job records, etc.
Sometimes lack of truthfulness can also be exposed by eyewitnesses to the issues in question.
Additionally, the employers and insurance companies hire very good attorneys to represent them in workers’ compensation cases. These defense lawyers will study the case carefully, and have a chance to question a worker in both a deposition prior to trial and again at trial. The defense lawyers are very good at identifying and proving when workers have been untruthful.
Once the Defendants can show that a worker has been untruthful about one issue in a case, everything else that the worker says will be viewed with suspicion and skepticism.
Once a worker has been shown to be dishonest, the Defendants will likely decide not to voluntarily pay any money, or will pay less money than they would have otherwise.
Similarly, if the case goes to trial the Deputy Workers’ Compensation Commissioners (the work comp judges) are likely to award a worker they view as dishonest less money than they would have otherwise, or even decide to not award any money.
The best approach in workers’ compensation cases is simple and easy to remember: Always tell the truth.