Many of us have watched television and seen the police on the cop and detective shows say something like, “anything you say can and will be used against in a court of law.” In real life, apart from certain custodial police stops, you don’t get such a fair warning. For example, if you are hurt while working at an airport, or while in the employment of the airlines, it is unlikely that the insurance investigator or friendly-sounding adjuster will tell you that anything you say will in fact be used against you in a court of law. A Workers’ Compensation claims manager may be setting a trap to set you up to lose important legal benefits.
Dulles airport injury lawyer Doug Landau of Herndon’s Abrams Landau law has heard countless true stories that have a similar sound. The insurance adjuster asks permission to take a recorded statement, so that they can then move forward on the injured person’s claim. Often the injured person is desperate to get the medical bills paid, cover their lost wages, and take care of other bills that are piling up in an airport workplace injury case. The worker usually tells a supervisor or manager, who then turns the claim over to their Workers’ Compensation insurance company, or Third-Party Administrator (TPA). Then, the injured worker gets a friendly-sounding call from an insurance adjuster. However, many people are unaware of just how lethal this phone call can be, and that is what the insurance company (or their TPA) is counting on.
According to lawyer Landau, they are almost always very friendly and polite when they call you. Sometimes they will even visit you at your home or work! Think about it; the claims adjuster’s job is to save the insurance company money. The purpose of the recorded statement is to get you to say something that either justifies their denial of your claim, or limits the benefits you would otherwise be entitled to under law. In the Commonwealth of Virginia, this is easy and they try to do it in nearly every single case.
In Virginia, in order to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits, you have to have sustained a sudden injury by accident in the course and scope of employment. The insurance company adjuster will ask questions geared toward getting you to say that you were injured doing something that you do often, every day, or repetitively. The reason is, according to Landau, repetitive injuries and cumulative events are often not covered by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation law. So, if the adjuster can get you to say things that sound like you were lifting heavy bags Monday, Tuesday AND Wednesday, or, that you have replaced several beverage carts during an afternoon shift, they may be able to deny the claim based upon your statement that it was NOT a sudden, specific, acute “injury by accident.”
Oftentimes, injured airport workers feel guilty because they slipped and fell, or tripped over something that they did not see. Though “fault” usually doesn’t matter in workers comp claims, these feelings of guilt may cause a worker to agree with the sympathetic-sounding adjuster taking a tape-recorded statement. The insurance company adjuster is counting on the injured workers’ inexperience, naïveté, and feelings of guilt. Also, the insurance adjuster will ask questions in a way to get answers that are favorable to the insurance company.
Frequently, injured airline workers fail to give all of the specific details and explain exactly how they got hurt. If an airline or airport worker does not explain to the insurance adjuster all the details showing that there was a specific accident on the job causing a particular change in their anatomy, then the insurance company is more likely to deny the case. If there is a denial in the case, the injured worker will have great difficulty getting it covered. They will have to go to court to get a decision from the workers’ comp judge.
So what’s the takeaway? Before you talk to an adjuster, claims manager or other insurance representative and risk ruining your valid airport workers’ compensation case, get experienced legal counsel. The insurance company spends a lot of time, effort and money training these professionals to get material that will enable them to save the money. You need to have professionals on your side, to make sure that you get the compensation provided under law. If you or someone you know has been injured due to no fault of your own and you have questions as to what laws apply, please call us (703-796-9555) or email us at Abrams Landau, Ltd.