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Do painkillers keep people from returning to work?

A workplace injury can be devastating. Ohio workers who are injured on the job are usually entitled to workers' compensation benefits. If workers are injured by a non-coworker, though, they may be entitled to file a third-party claim. Through a third-party claim, workers may be able to recover money for lost wages, medical treatment and pain and suffering.

Employees currently receiving workers' compensation benefits should be aware of an issue on the minds of workplace insurers. Workplace insurers make billions of payments annually, and the majority of these payments go toward employees injured in workplace accidents. But costs are increasing specifically in the amount of payouts to workers who are treated with narcotic painkillers following routine injuries. Many of these injured employees take months before returning to work. Some do not return at all.

Insurers are accustomed to spending money on strong painkillers, but according to one report, they are discovering that these types of medications may increase the costs of disability payments and medical expenses if they are prescribed early on in the treatment process.

According to the California Workers Compensation Institute, employees who were prescribed high doses of narcotic painkillers for routine injuries, like back strain, remained out of work three times longer than those taking lower doses for similar injuries. Results like these are leading workplace insurers to believe that there is an association between narcotic painkiller use and the recovery time following workplace accidents.

It is this association that may initiate workplace insurers to potentially influence how physicians prescribe certain drugs. Some states have already released new pain-treatment guidelines in order to combat this apparent trend.

Despite this news, workers who are injured on the job should pursue workers' compensation benefits. Those who are injured by a non-coworker would be wise to consult with an experienced attorney to determine if a third-party claim is appropriate.

Source: The Columbus Dispatch, "$1.4B in pain pills costing insurers even more," Barry Meier, June 3, 2012

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