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Do I Need Back Surgery?

Many people dread a doctor mentioning the possibility of back surgery.  Unfortunately, serious back injuries happen too often at work.

I have represented many clients who suffer from herniated discs, injured facet joints, and fractured vertebra as a result of injuries at work.  Many of these clients have had back surgery.  Sometimes, that surgery has helped them.  Other times it has not.

Before going any further, it is important to understand that I am not a doctor.  I am an attorney that specializes in Georgia workers’ compensation cases.  Nothing in this article is meant as medical advice.  That leads me right into my first point.

Talk to your doctor about whether you need back surgery

If you have back pain and are wondering whether you should have back surgery, talk to your doctor.  Your doctor is the expert when it comes to making decisions about medical treatment.

Be sure to find a good doctor who you trust.  Unfortunately, your choice of doctors may be limited in a Georgia workers’ compensation case. You will probably have to choose from your employer’s list of doctors, but there are exceptions to that. Even if you have to choose from the list, you often have the right to change doctors or to get a second opinion.

A doctor checks an x-ray for a spinal cord injuryAsk Questions To Get Good Advice From Your Doctor

To make a good decision about treatment, you often need to ask questions of your doctor. Your doctor may tell you that you definitely need back surgery and could end up paralyzed if you do not have it. Your doctor may tell you that back surgery is an option to consider but recommend that you consider other options as well.

You need to get whatever questions you have addressed before you make your decision about having back surgery. Here are a few of the questions I would ask if I had an injury where back surgery was a potential treatment:

  • What are the chances that surgery will make me better?
  • What are the chance that surgery will make me worse?
  • Is the surgery likely to relieve pain? If so, will it likely relieve all my pain or just some of my pain?
  • What are the risks of surgery?
  • How long will it take to recover?
  • What other treatment options are there?
  • What will happen if I do not have surgery?

You probably have your own questions that you want to ask.  I would just recommend that you get answers.  You may even want to write the questions down so that you can remember them at your appointment with your doctor.

Can the workers’ compensation insurance company force me to have back surgery?

No. Neither your employer nor the workers’ compensation insurance company can force you to have surgery.

You may have valid concerns about the risks of back surgery.  You may just want to pursue other treatment options.  Know that you you have the option to refuse medical treatment even if it is recommended by your doctor. If you want more information about refusing medical treatment, take a look at this article.

Even if you are considering back surgery, you also do not have to be rushed into that decision.  You may want to consider a second opinion with another doctor before having surgery.  Once again though, consider the information that your doctor gives you about any risks associated with waiting on having the surgery.

Will having back surgery make my workers’ compensation case better?

I cannot give you the answer to that. The only thing I can tell you is that the decision about whether to have surgery or not should be a medical decision and not a legal decision.

There are some workers’ compensation issues you should understand if you have a serious back injury.

Limits on medical and indemnity benefits in Georgia workers’ compensation cases

You need to know that you now have a limited period of time to receive medical treatment and wage loss benefits in most Georgia workers’ compensation claims.  Unless your case is designated catastrophic, you probably only have 400 weeks (about 7.5 years) to make the insurance company pay for the medical treatment for your injury.

Back surgery will probably take you out of work for some time.  The insurance company is also only responsible for paying for wage loss benefits for a limited time after your injury.

The time limits on medical treatment and wage loss benefits make it important to get the treatment you need quickly.  Even if you do decide to have surgery, the workers’ compensation insurance company will often deny the surgery or request a second opinion before approving it.  Delaying the surgery could cause you to miss out on medical treatment you need later because it is after the 400 week deadline.

Woman with back injury

Permanent partial disability benefits after back surgery

Permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits are benefits paid to you when your workers’ compensation injury causes some permanent impairment.  If you have back surgery, you should end up with a permanent partial disability rating.  The amount of the rating usually depends on the type of back surgery you have.

Georgia law requires doctors to use the 5th Edition of the American Medical Association Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment to assign PPD ratings.  Doctors often use using the diagnosis-related estimate (DRE) method to rate back injuries.  Under this method, injuries fall into five categories.  Each category has a range of percentage ratings.

The type of back surgery often determines the category number for the DRE method.  A discectomy or laminectomy will often result in a Category 3 DRE rating.  A surgical fusion will usually result in a Category 4 or 5 DRE rating.  The higher number categories result in a higher PPD rating.

Severe back injuries may qualify for a catastrophic designationCatastrophic designation for back injuries

Unfortunately, back surgery does not always make people better.  Some people continue to have significant pain after surgery.  This pain can make it very difficult to return to work.

You may decide not to have back surgery.  If you make this decision, you may have to live with very serious pain, even if you get pain management treatment.  This pain can also make it hard to get back to work.

You may qualify for a catastrophic designation if your injury prevents you from going back to most types of jobs.  One of the benefits of qualifying for a catastrophic designation is that you avoid the 400 weeks cutoff for both your wage loss and medical benefits.

Settlement with or without back surgery

Many people have questions about settlement.  Should they settle their case? If so, when should they settle?

Settlement is complicated.  The answers to these questions and many others really depend on your particular situation. Since settlement is a choice, you should make the best choice for you.

If you have had back surgery or it has been recommended, you need to put a lot of thought into your decision about settlement.  There is one thing that is certain about settlement – it is almost always final.  You cannot go back and change your mind later.  So, make an informed decision if you are considering settlement.

Other issues associated with back surgery

This article covers a few of the issues you may face when considering back surgery.  You may face other issues in your case as well.

Talking to an attorney is usually the best way to answer specific questions that you have about workers’ compensation. I provide free consultations in workers compensation cases so you can get answers to your questions.

What if I have other questions about workers compensation?

Georgia’s workers compensation system can be very confusing.  You have to worry about getting the treatment you need and paying your bills while also worrying about not missing any deadlines that could cause you to lose your right to receive workers compensation benefits.

If you have questions, I would recommend that you try to get answers.  To find out more about how to schedule a time to talk to me about your workers compensation questions, just read this short article.

Jason Perkins is an attorney who specializes in representing injured workers.  He regularly publishes videos and write blog articles about Georgia’s workers compensation system and issues that are important to injured workers and their families.

To be notified of Jason’s new workers compensation videos, subscribe to his Georgia Workers Compensation Video Series channel on YouTube by clicking the subscribe button below.

It took me probably too long to finally get a lawyer when my work comp claim started and I had no idea what I should do. I read reviews and upon recommendation of several people started the process of getting a lawyer. I am fortunate and lucky to have come across Perkins Studdard. Jason and his team has taken care of me since the moment I first called them and made sure any and all questions I had were answered as well as working hard to get me my settlement so I can continue receiving treatment. If you're looking for a good law firm to represent you in your worker's compensation case I would highly highly recommend this one.Autumn Fields
I highly recommend Perkins Law Firm. Throughout the whole process Perkins team kept me updated and explained everything very well. I am very pleased with their work. You will not be disappointed!!trina flornce
Mr. Perkins and team...Tina* they have all been so awesome. Always available to talk to me with any concerns. Kept me informed on my case all the way. Greatly appreciated!Missy Cherry
Amazing! Jason and his team were very helpful and had the best communication by far. Walked me though every step with great detail and had answers for any question I had. They handled my case better then I could imagine, it was a weird case and they stayed on top of it and kept me updated every step of the way! Highly recommend this Team! Thanks so much to Jason and his Awesome team! -BrittneyBrittney-lee orourke
This law firm is very good at what it does the staff and the lawyer's that were involved with my case all were very perfesional and curious I couldn't ask for a better law firm I want to thank everyone for a great job thanks Les RyanLeslie Ryan
I absolutely love this group of attorneys, when I was at my lowest they did everything they could to help me get justice for my injury. I believe if I were to have never picked my phone up and called the amazing group that helped me I definitely would not have received my idea of rights. If you have an issue and are just not sure please understand that they will help you, stay in contact, answer any question you have, and for sure get you the justice you deserve I thank them from the bottom of my heart and I will definitely refer them to anyone who has been hurt because they most definitely care about their work and clients.China Jones
The entire law office was attentive and responsive to all of my concerns dealing with my workers compensation case.Luv Locs
If you must get a lawyer involved, you’d do well to work with Jason Perkins and his team at Perkins Studdard Law. They were thorough in gathering information and in sharing all the steps in the workers comp process specific to my case. Jason and the team were responsive to my bevy of questions and concerns. I appreciated the informative videos and consultations provided by Jason over video meetings and multiple phone calls. I hope I’m never injured on the job again. However, if I am and if my employer responds as my previous employer did, I’ll contact Perkins Studdard Law immediately to handle the case.moombi
Everyone at Perkins Studdard was kind and professional. They were always extremely responsive and answered all questions that I had and followed up to make sure I had an understanding of what was going on along with emailing videos to explain every step of my case so I would know what to expect and be prepared. Jason is a very genuine person and I trusted him with my case. He answered so many questions for me even before I retained him as my WC lawyer. I highly recommend him and his associates at Perkins Studdard.Dana Bess
Great staff and very knowlegable. They treat you like family and work hard to get you what you need. Highly recommended.Josh Carter

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Jason Perkins

Workers' Compensation Attorney

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