Fired for reporting an injury late?
(South of Richmond, Virginia)
Three days ago while working with some other employees, there was a heavy item that was being lifted and was dropped a short distance. The item was roughly about 100 pounds and was still in my hands. Due to the jerking motion and excessive exertion, my shoulder suffered some muscle tears. The next day I went into work. I noticed that my arm was sore but nothing too bad.
I reported it to my immediate supervisor that day and told him that I didn't know what was going on. After doing this, I returned to work and finished out the day. That night I noticed tingling sensations shooting down my arm.
Today I reported to work and the pain subsided, but was still present. While working today my arm started locking up and I notified the upper supervisor of my situation. The upper supervisor asked me to sit in a room until he got a report.
While filling out the report, the supervisor only took the information that represented the company as if I was late reporting the injury and that my information was false.
One of the questions he asked was, "When did this pain start?" I truthfully told him, "The pain started about a month ago." He then asked, "So are you reporting that this started a month ago?" I told him, "No, the accident was not a month ago. I did have muscle fatigue at that time but it was not an accident."
He then asked, "Did you report this to a supervisor?" I responded with, "That was just muscle cramping, why would I report this? Everyone has muscle fatigue which eventually goes away." He then went into gaining more information about the situation. Everything else was accurate and could not be used against me if he tried.
After this medical report, I told him that I will refuse signing anything because it is not accurate. So we then got together and he drove me to the company's medical treatment facility. The medical facility took some X-rays, and eventually sent me to physical therapy.
Through some exercises and feeling my neck, the physical therapist found out that I was injured. I gave him the information and he agreed that the dropping of the unit caused the injury. The physical therapist gave me some stretches to accomplish and sent me on my way.
Once we got back to the office I told the supervisor about the physical therapist's findings and the doctor's findings. He then asked me, "So are you changing your story?" I told him, "No I'm not changing my story, I know what happened now. The unit caused my injury." He then told me that I was giving false information and changing my story.
My first question is, given that the accident happened Wednesday, I felt it Thursday, and my arm locked up Friday, is this a late injury report? I reported about my pain Thursday and this is when I felt the pain.
My second question is, if someone gives information and does not know why they are experiencing pains, and finds out within a day why it happened, does this mean that person is falsifying information?
My third question is, until you find out why you have a certain pain and what caused it, can the employer make assumptions and make their own story? This seems to have happened in my case and the employer fired me because of a very dangerous environment.
Fourth and final question... if an employer fires you without you signing any documentation and after a doctor has proven that this was a work-related injury, isn't the company still responsible for this injury? Thanks for any information you can give.
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ANSWER for "Fired for reporting an injury late?":
Steve (South of Richmond, Virginia):
Let's try to answer your questions one at a time.
"Is this a late injury report?"
Reporting an injury three days after it occurred is acceptable behavior for purposes of workers compensation. Often, after engaging in a stressful work activity a worker feels some amount of pain and yet not enough to seek immediate medical help.
The problem you may have is your having told your supervisor your shoulder began to experience pain about a month ago. As a result, your injury may not be a new one, but an exacerbation of a previous injury. But even if your present pain is just an exacerbation of a previous injury, you should still be covered by workers comp.
"If someone gives information and does not know why they are experiencing pains, and finds out within a day why it happened, does this mean that person is falsifying information?"
From the acts you present you did not falsify any information. You told the truth to the best of your knowledge. It should have been pretty simple. You were injured three days ago while on the job. You deserved medical treatment and other applicable workers' compensation benefits.
"Until you find out why you have a certain pain and what caused it, can the employer make assumptions and make their own story?"
In most cases, an employer is not medically trained to determine the type and seriousness of a worker's injury. Your supervisor should not have presumed anything medically related when discussing your injury. You have a right to be seen by a company-approved physician. It will then be up to the physician to determine what injuries you may have sustained on the job, and what the appropriate treatment should be.
"If an employer fires you without you signing any documentation and after a doctor has proven that this was a work-related injury, isn't the company still responsible for this injury?"
Your employer's workers' comp insurance company is still obligated to pay for your medical and therapy bills, even after your termination. If you were injured on the job, insurance follows you until such time as your physician decides you have reached a level of maximum medical improvement (MMI).
The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.
Best of luck,
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