Even if you don’t have a hazardous job in dangerous conditions, your workplace can still prove to be unsafe. Employers and private industry recorded 2.8 million non-fatal illnesses and injuries in 2019, according to a Bureau of Labor Statistics report. To make matters worse, those workers who are no longer able to work face a complex and challenging legal environment surrounding workers compensation claims.
Even if you know the rules, workers comp rules can change in the blink of an eye and result in your claim being denied. There are definite dos and don’ts associated with filing a workers comp claim.
Work Comp Dos
- If hurt, call for medical help immediately.
- Get contact info from witnesses – Claims are denied on a regular basis, so witnesses are very important.
- Be thorough – Report every part of your body that was hurt. You may feel that your primary injury deserves your focus, but for example, ignoring a headache could result in a lack of medical care for something serious like a concussion. Don’t worry about being labeled as a complainer and be comprehensive in your list of injuries.
- Inform your manager immediately – If you let too much time pass, you could be accused of injuring yourself further after you left the job site. At a minimum, you must notify your employer within 90 days of the injury.
- Secure your own copy of the accident report – It may seem shady, but some employers have been known to deny ever receiving an accident report to avoid paying claims.
- Keep all medical appointments and follow treatment plans otherwise you risk benefits being terminated.
Work Comp Don’ts
- Do not let anyone talk you out of filing a report about your injury – Employers are not above asking injured workers to be silent about injuries so as not to tarnish the company’s safety record.
- Refrain from signing checks or agreeing to a settlement before you check with a lawyer, even if (or especially if) you really need the money.
- Avoid the common trick of request for medical records – The insurance group works for your employer, and they will do everything they can to find previously existing conditions or anything that limits your benefits.
Sometimes you do everything right, but still your injury or situation gets worse. So what if you settle your workers compensation claim, but then later, your injury gets worse? Will you be able to reopen your claim?
Reopening a Work Comp Claim
If your condition worsens, reopening a work comp claim is within your legal right to potentially recover additional benefits to pay medical expenses and redeem lost wages. However, you will need a doctor’s letter as proof.
The doctor’s letter should include details outlining why you need treatment, a precise description of the treatment that is advised by the physician to attain full recovery and the doctor’s written medical opinion that your condition got worse after the original claim was already closed. If your request was denied when the initial claim was filed, you can reopen it again but you will have to wait one full year before doing so.
Most people’s survival instincts lead them to be fairly optimistic. After all, expecting doom and gloom almost guarantees the worst will happen. But if you incorrectly assumed that you would be fine after an injury and your symptoms later worsened, it is good to know that your work comp claim can be reopened with assistance from an experienced attorney that is familiar with ever-changing workers compensation laws.