Top 5 Mistakes You Can Make When Injured At Work
This article assembles the top five mistakes that people make after being injured on the job and during their subsequent workers’ compensation case.
#1: Not Reporting in a Timely Manner
The most common mistake is to not report your accident to your employer right away. In the state of Florida, worker’s compensation laws require that an injured employee report any accident involving injury within 30 days to their employer or supervisor. In the event that the injury is the result of an occupational disease, the employee has 90 days from the first sign of illness. While some exceptions do exist, it isn’t worth suffering the injury and then having to fight for compensation and defend your delayed report. Given the large number of claims that arise at the workplace, employers are already suspicious of any sort of work-related injury claim. By waiting longer than you should to report that you’ve been hurt, you run the risk of having your injury’s integrity called into question.
Don’t think that reporting your injury immediately will get you fired, or that you might feel better in the morning. Even if an accident seems minor, reporting it immediately will help in the event that your condition worsens over time.
#2: Not Disclosing Previous Injuries
The second most common mistake made by injury victims is failing to disclose any previous work injuries. Again, even if the previous accident seemed minor or you were hurt and didn’t report the previous injury out of concern for losing your job, any failure to report a past incident could result in losing your compensation completely. In fact, if you don’t file a report on previous injuries, it can be considered fraud. In cases of this nature, it’s entirely possible to not only lose your compensation, but you may even face repayment of worker’s compensation finances already received. When it comes to filling out medical history forms for a doctor’s visit or speaking with an insurance adjuster or case manager, be transparent about any history of being hurt on the job. This obligation exists even when you’re disclosing information regarding a condition that had nothing to do with your previous injury. The employer’s insurance company will use this information against your claim by saying that your injury was a pre-existing condition, rather than the result of the current work injury. This is referred to as a Major Contributing Cause (MCC) and it is a common objection. However, arguing about an MCC and whether or not it was work related is much easier than fighting worker’s compensation fraud.
#3: Not Reporting All Injuries
The third most common mistake is failing to report the total extent of your injuries to your doctor. If you fall and hurt your back, but also experienced damage to your leg, don’t forget to disclose it. Failure to report secondary injuries, and then bringing them up later, will look as though you are trying to claim more than you are entitled to. This can also run the risk of being construed as worker’s compensation fraud.
In addition to pain or potential trauma, it’s also important to report any additional symptoms you are experiencing that is related to the work accident. This involves more than just pain, but also: the loss of motor functions, blurry vision, stomach issues, flu-like symptoms, etc. This can be common after certain types of accidents like suffering a head injury or being exposed to chemicals in the workplace.
Following early treatment, you may feel fully recovered, or even worse, than when the treatment started. In either case, always be upfront and clear about your complaints, symptoms, and pain levels with your doctor(s).
Before and during treatment, it’s important to make a list of questions that you have for your doctor. Ask for clarification on any details that you don’t understand, whether it be a diagnosis, treatment plan, or any other information. Often times, people don’t feel as though they have enough time with their doctor. By writing down your questions and concerns ahead of time, you reduce the risk of forgetting to ask about something important.
After your doctor sees you, they will tell you about your work status. This will include a general description, such as: “no work,” “work with restrictions,” or “light duty.” Once your physician tells you that you can return to work, even if only on light duty, your employer is obligated to find a position that will suit your restrictions. If they offer you the position, make sure you take it. You are obligated by workers’ compensation regulations to do so.
#4: Not Returning to Work When Able
The fourth big mistake is refusing to return to work when you are able. (This is related to the above mistake). It may even be at a lower wage, but failure to accept the position offer can be considered a voluntary loss of income. This means that you can lose any further compensation and benefits. To make things worse, your employer can terminate you for ‘your refusal to work.’
If you believe that you won’t be able to perform the duties of the position offered, you are still obligated to make an attempt. Only when you show that the duties of the job are beyond your restrictions can you make a claim that you are unable to follow through with the new position.
In the event that the position offered by your employer pays less than 80% of your pre-injury income, you are entitled to a wage loss benefit by your insurance carrier.
#5: Being the Only One without Representation
The fifth big mistake made by work-place injury sufferers is thinking they can handle the case on their own without legal representation. While you are ‘allowed’ to represent yourself, it is highly discouraged.
The insurance company, and more than likely your employer, will be consulting with legal representation regarding your case; so you should be also.
Navigating the law when it comes to the complex interworking of insurance carriers, employer claims, and medical treatments is far more difficult than it may seem. Even if your case appears to be open and shut, it’s better to find an attorney who has the experience and knowledge to properly represent your interests. What seems like a clear-cut case to you, may have a dozen loopholes that your insurance company can and will find.