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Opted out of workers’ comp system? Be careful of verbal authorizations

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If your organization has opted not to participate in the Texas workers’ compensation system, but you still authorize treatment for work-related injuries, make sure you track how and when you give employees permission to seek treatment.

It’s probably a good idea for each incident to require an accident report and the approval of initial treatment in writing. If you give the go-ahead verbally, you may end up facing a larger bill than you anticipated. That’s what happened in the following case.

Recent case: Robin Hughes worked as a part-time file clerk for Gibson Plumbing and had just given notice when she tripped over a box at work. When her back began to hurt, she complained to her supervisor, who told her to see the manager in charge of injury claims.

Gibson didn’t subscribe to the workers’ comp system. The manager told Hughes she could see a chiropractor, but didn’t specify Hughes could only go once. As a result, Hughes went for 51 treatments, and Gibson got a bill for $12,400. It refused to pay for more than one visit.

The chiropractor sued, and the court found that Gibson had approved more than one visit when the manager gave the verbal okay. It then ordered Gibson to pay a portion of the bill, and Hughes the rest. (Gibson Plumbing and Hughes v. Coolbaugh Chiropractic, No 07-05-0449-CV, Court of Appeals of Texas, Amarillo, 2007) 

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