Hi, my name is XXXXX XXXXX I thank you for your inquiry. I have been practicing law for 19+ years and look forward to assisting you.
With regard to your post:
Workman's Comp in the State of Washington.
Can I be forced into having surgery to possibly resolve a disability? Generally not if the surgery is risky, such as back surgeries, and similarly so if the outcome is not clear, only a "chance" of success.
I have an open disability claim. There is no question of my on-the-job injury; it was recorded on video and performed under the direction of a supervisor. The claim has been accepted. I understand.
One neurosurgeon recommends surgery for this condition: spondylolisthesis. Serious back impairment.
I have pushed a vertebra out of my spine in my lower back. Like all operations, there is a chance this surgery will not be successful. Yes, and you will likely want your WC attorney to arrange for a competing consultation/evaluation by a different doctor, equally accredited, that will discuss the % of success of such surgery in workers of your age, as well as the % of risk of more damage, different damage, death, etc.
It involves a 5-6 day stay in the hospital, home health care for one month and wearing a back brace for 3-6 months, implanting a bone graft or steel rod. Because of my age, 64, I am very concerning about having this invasive surgery without a very high probability of success. Boy, can I understand that!
I would like to continue a non-surgical approach to recovery. Sure.
That is, physical therapy, massage therapy, chiropractic therapy and rest. This also may or may not be successful. Yes, but it may be paliative enough to allow you to live in a degree of comfort it you don't otherwise overdue it and it is low to no risk.
If I do not recover using the second approach, can the state require that I get surgery in order to continue benefits? I have NOT seen that happen - I have not seen WC individuals be required to undergo a risky, speculative surgery in order to get benefits. What if I am disabled forever? Generally, once you are considered at Maximium medical improvement, and still deemed not able to return to work, your benefits will stop and you will be seeking a permanent disability award. If WC fights you on the surgery aspect (and don't be surpised if they do, or don't), be sure to use a WC attorney who can line up the evidence needed. It is more likely, I tend to believe, to encourage the comp carrier/state to use reasonable judgment on issues of "noncompliance", since it knows that it can't snow the lawyer, and may not be sure it can not snow the individual. Your argument is likely to be that you are not non-complaint at all -this was not actually compentent medical advise, only a suggestion as to what you can try that may help the back - not a recommendation that it WILL LIKELY help the back and is low risk. I never see spinal surgery discussions / consults be deemed as medical advice in which the choice to not follow results in an assertion of "noncompliance." I can't really imagine this being a problem for you. Your age is also a factor - healing is more difficult, risks of death are higher in the surgery, etc.
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