by Bernard D. Nomberg, Partner, The Nomberg Law Firm
Happy New Year! And with that, gyms all over are going to be more crowded (at least for a few weeks) as we try to stay true to our New Year’s Resolutions.
High intensity workouts such as Crossfit, OrangeTheory, and kickboxing have emerged as leading trends in fitness programs over the past several years. High intensity training focuses on strength and uses repetition to maximize muscle. The workouts tend to be short, but intense. The programs generally work to target specific areas and focus on targeted movements to bolster specific muscles. Recently, however, the workouts gained a measure of notoriety when some examples of workers’ compensation fraud came to light due to the training programs.
One Verizon employee was caught after collecting $37,000 in workers’ compensation benefits at the same time he was teaching kickboxing, a high intensity workout. Video evidence showed the employee performing martial arts on a punching bag. That’s not all he was using his martial arts for however. He used his training to sneakily steal workers’ compensation benefits. He reported to be physically unable to work, yet demonstrated a remarkably effortless roundhouse kick. In addition to an arrest, he now faces restitution charges. This is not the only instance where workers’ compensation fraud was discovered in the gym, however. In fact, insurance carriers have even gone undercover to the gym in order to uncover and gather evidence of potential fraud.
Of particular interest on the subject of workers’ compensation fraud: on the list compiling the ten largest workers’ compensation fraud cases in 2016, there were NO EMPLOYEES. The top ten list is comprised solely of EMPLOYERS. The list can be found here: https://ncworkcompjournal.com/2016/12/30/2016-top-ten-workers-compensation-fraud-cases/
List courtesy of Leonard T. Jernigan, Jr., an attorney in North Carolina.
While fitness may generally be encouraged, if you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits remember you are under a microscope. Thus, you are subject to investigation by your employer or workers’ compensation carrier through private investigation, surveillance and social media review. Exercise, especially high intensity training, may defeat any claim you might have for workers’ compensation and lead to criminal charges later on. So, if you are thinking about going to the gym and workout out that leg you broke falling off of the ladder at work, think again.
We have previously discussed the potential problems injured workers subject themselves to through the employer and workers’ compensation carrier performing surveillance on the injured worker as well as reviewing their social media posts. Social media has been used countless times to discredit employees attempting to receive workers’ compensation benefits or already receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
It is always best to consult with the authorized treating physician and discuss the possibility of exercise before engaging in high intensity workouts after a workplace injury. Full disclosure is required and anything less may land you in hot water. Honesty is the best policy. Injured workers must understand what they post on social media will be viewed and will be used against them. Having the authorized treating physician approve the activity beforehand can help prevent issues. It is best to stay within the work restrictions assigned by the authorized treating physician.
If you have questions about your workers’ compensation claim, please contact our Firm today. And good luck with your New Year’s Resolutions! We wish you a happy, healthy and prosperous 2017!
Bernard D. Nomberg has practiced workers’ compensation law in Alabama for more than 20 years. Bernard has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. He has been selected a Super Lawyer by Super Lawyers Magazine as well as a Top Rated Attorney by B-Metro Magazine.