Workers’ compensation exists to make sure that employees receive the appropriate compensation and medical care in the event they sustain a work-related injury. In the vast majority of cases, workers’ compensation claims are valid and the injured employee really does require medical care. In some unfortunate cases, however, there may be medical fraud in workers’ compensation cases.
Medical fraud in workers’ compensation cases comes in many different forms. One common form is when a worker either exaggerates or completely fabricates an injury. An employee may state that he or she still needs medical care and accommodations at work even though he or she is actually no longer injured. This is commonly known as “malingering.” If an employee fabricates or exaggerates an injury to continue to receive benefits, the employee can be charged with insurance fraud, ordered to pay back the fraudulently received funds and even serve time in jail. Common injuries that are seen with this type of fraud are soft tissue injuries, as there are no medical tests to determine whether the injury has sufficiently healed and the employee is the only one who can say whether there is still pain or limitations because of the injury.
There are also much more complicated types of medical fraud. These are typically white-collar crimes that may involve multiple layers of fraud and multiple offenders. These types of schemes may include doctors and attorneys who encourage others to exaggerate their injuries. Doctors may over-treat the patient to continue receiving payment for services and may overprescribe drugs, including harmful and addictive substances like powerful opioids. Doctors receive payments for unnecessary treatment and the cost of insurance companies, and that cost is ultimately passed on to taxpayers and others who must purchase workers’ compensation insurance.
In recent years, the state of California has made significant efforts to identify and prosecute workers’ compensation fraud, including medical fraud. During the 2015-16 fiscal year alone, 167 cases were referred to prosecutors by the fraud division, totaling a potential loss of almost two hundred million dollars. In addition, during that same time period, district attorneys reported 731 arrests. Restitution of over fifteen million dollars was ordered in connection with the successful convictions.
If you have questions about workers’ compensation fraud, contact us today. We can talk with you about fraud concerns and how you can comply with the law.