You never plan on getting hurt at work, and when an accident happens or an injury develops over time it can be frustrating to not know what to immediately do or how to file a claim. Unfortunately protocol can vary on a state to state basis, but in almost all cases some steps are uniform regardless of where you work.
What are the first steps you should take?
Although it may sound obvious, first and foremost you must report your injury. If you think your injury might be minor and are hesitant to report it you could be hurting your chances of receiving company aid in the future for the injury. Injuries can include almost any condition—if you work in an office and develop a problem with your wrists from a repeated movement or action, falling, hearing loss or disease related to your job—however you will need to prove the condition or injury is directly related to your work.
If you wait too long to report your injury you could lose all workers compensation benefits. It does vary from state to state, however, in California workers only have 30 days, but in Iowa workers have up to 90. There should be a notice posted in your place of work providing you with information on your workers compensation coverage. If you aren’t sure where it is at your place of work ask your supervisor. Not having one hung is actually a misdemeanor and can result in a fine.
In the case of an emergency don’t hesitate to get medical attention. For less urgent cases make sure your supervisor fills out a company accident report. They will often include written statements from witnesses, as well as a statement from you and details about the incident. You should be given a copy for your records and if you’re not, request one.
If you don’t need immediate medical attention make sure you find out what medical provider is covered by your company. You can see the doctor of your choice, but your company won’t be required to cover your medical expenses if you do.
Why is it a bad idea to wait to report your injury?
Although you technically don’t have to report your injury right away, it can be significantly more difficult to receive compensation if you wait.
Unfortunately your employer may try to claim your injury didn’t happen at work if you don’t report it right away. Depending on your company policy you may actually get yourself in trouble by waiting to report an accident including reprimand or suspension without pay.
Never let your supervisor keep you from filing a claim
It is illegal for your boss or supervisor to keep you from filing a workers’ compensation claim. If someone asks you to sign anything stating you agree not to file injury claims this is also illegal.
However, just because you filed a claim doesn’t necessarily mean you will automatically be covered. If you were intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of your accident you may be denied coverage. It is also within your employer’s rights to drug test you following an accident or injury at work.
Finally, if you intentionally get hurt for the purpose of filing a workers compensation claim or make a misleading statement to receive compensation you could be investigate for fraud. Never try to falsely portray the cause of an injury or incident at work.
Know your rights
Before filing a claim it’s important to be aware of your rights and what you’re potentially giving up by filing a claim. If you’re unhappy with the outcome of your claim you are no longer able to sue your employer. By filing a claim you give up that right.
If you aren’t sure what to do, contact a personal injury lawyer and ask if they offer free consultations.
Finally, if you believe you work in unsafe conditions it is within your rights to report your employer. OSHA regulations require all companies to provide a safe working environment to prevent accidents.
About the Author
Sofia Francis is a recent law school graduate currently living in Riverside, California. Sofia plans to pursue a career in personal injury law but for now is busy writing for Welebir, Tierney, and Weck, a San Bernardino law firm.