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Ask Leslie: Should A Workers' Compensation Report Be Made For Just A Minor Injury?

Dear Leslie:

My employee sustained a minor cut on his leg at work. It's about an inch long, but it's not something deep that would need stitches. We just cleaned it with antiseptic and put a bandage on it. It doesn't seem like something I should report for workers' compensation purposes. I don't think he needs medical care and neither does he. What do you think?

         Signed: Busy, But Wondering

Dear Busy, But Wondering:

Although the cut you describe seems like a minor injury, none of us - you, me, or the injured worker - really know the extent of it because we are not physicians.

A small, seemingly minor cut, for example, sustained by a person with diabetes, can develop, if not treated quickly and aggressively, into a life-threatening infection. Even a healthy person can develop a deadly MRSA infection from a cut that is not treated under the care of a physician. Likewise, an employee with a mild back sprain, if untreated, could develop severe back and spine issues like herniated discs.

A minor blow or fall that jars the head, but causes the worker no pain or dizziness, may have actually caused a much more serious head injury, like internal bleeding, the signs of which cannot be detected by your observations and for which noticeable symptoms will not develop until hours later. You may remember that in 2009, actress Natasha Richardson, wife of actor Liam Neeson, was on a family ski trip, when she fell on a beginner run. She felt fine, was even joking, and refused to be taken to a medical center. About an hour or so later, she developed a headache, and was then taken to the hospital. Unfortunately, she died two days of internal brain hemorrhaging. Neurosurgeons explain that "time equals brain." The sooner a person who sustains a blow to the head or a fall that jars the head is evaluated, the better.

Bottom line: an injury that looks like "nothing" can become "something" down the road. Send your injured workers for medical care to avoid long-term, more severe developments and additional medical costs. Even if the worker says, "Oh, it's nothing. I'm fine," send the worker for an evaluation.

Jack McCalmon and Leslie Zieren are attorneys with more than 50 years combined experience assisting employers in lowering their risk, including answering questions, like the one above, through the McCalmon Group's Best Practices Help Line. The Best Practice Help Line is a service of The McCalmon Group, Inc. Your organization may have access to The Best Practice Help Line or a similar service from another provider at no cost to you or at a discount. For questions about The Best Practice Help Line or what similar services are available to you via this Platform, call 888.712.7667.

If you have a question that you would like Jack McCalmon or Leslie Zieren to consider for this column, please submit it to ask@mccalmon.com. Please note that The McCalmon Group cannot guarantee that your question will be answered. Answers are based on generally accepted risk management best practices. They are not, and should not be considered, legal advice. If you need an answer immediately or desire legal advice, please call your local legal counsel.

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