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Jury finds Kansas doctor liable for employee's poor care

Crawford County employees are covered by state-mandated workers' compensation insurance. Employers carry the coverage to avoid being taken to court over workplace injury accidents. Sometimes, an employee is harmed on the job by someone other than the employer. Many of those cases end up in Kansas civil courts.

An Augusta man will collect nearly $736,000 for the misdiagnosis of a chest injury he suffered in 2008 while at work. The heavy equipment mover was crushed between two containers and directed to an employer-chosen occupational physician.

The patient was treated over four days. He later called the doctor twice to complain the condition had worsened. A new appointment was scheduled, during which the patient suffered life-threatening heart attack symptoms, which were detected by a nurse - not the physician. The patient was sent to an emergency room, where he suffered cardiac arrest.

The work-related malpractice complaint accused the physician of ignoring the worker's condition for days. The lawsuit claimed the doctor could have prevented the heart attack by sending the patient to the emergency room when symptoms first appeared.

According to the plaintiff's attorney, the 55-year-old man may never be able to work again.

A jury in Sedgwick County determined that the doctor and patient shared fault. The plaintiff was assigned 34 percent of the blame for not taking the initiative to go to an emergency room. The verdict made the defendant responsible for 66 percent of the $1.12 million damage award.

Some workers' compensation critics feel company-picked doctors undertreat injured employees. Employers, motivated by the fear of lost productivity, want physicians to give injured workers a clean bill of health as quickly as possible. Numerous or large workers' compensation claims also mean higher insurance premiums for companies.

Compensation is available for work accident victims, whether the relief comes from workers' compensation benefits or liability lawsuits against third-party defendants.

Source:  kansas.com, "Sedgwick County jury finds doctor most at fault in work-injury malpractice case" Tim Potter, Sep. 26, 2013

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