Avoid these mistakes when reporting a work-related injury to your employer. Here’s what you should know to protect your workers’ comp claim.
Injured employees often make mistakes after an accident at work. They fail to get medical treatment, don’t notify their employer, lie about their injuries, and more. These errors can jeopardize their right to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Here’s where we unpack seven mistakes to avoid when reporting work injuries to your employer. Learn how to protect your health, safety, and financial future after an on-the-job injury.
7 Mistakes to Avoid When Reporting Work Injuries
- Failing to Seek Prompt Medical Attention
- Ignoring Minor or Lesser Injuries
- Missing Notification Deadlines
- Disregarding Company Rules for Reporting Injuries
- Failing to Follow Up Verbal Reports in Writing
- Giving Opinions Instead of Facts
- Overstating the Scope of Your Injuries
It’s a serious mistake to delay medical treatment for workplace injuries. Not only are you risking your health, but you also risk jeopardizing your workers’ compensation benefits – like coverage of your medical expenses.
Employees injured on the job should receive appropriate medical attention in a timely manner. Severe traumatic injuries warrant emergency medical care at the scene and in the nearest hospital emergency room.
Less serious injuries also require prompt attention. If you don’t need emergency medical care, make an appointment with your primary health care provider or an urgent care center immediately following a work injury.
If you suffer a sprain or strain on the job, don’t tough it out to see if it gets better over the weekend. The workers’ comp insurance company will see the delay as a red flag that you weren’t really hurt at work.
It’s a mistake to think you only have to report a work injury if it’s serious. It’s important to report any work injury to your employer. You have a right to medical care, even first-aid for minor injuries. And there may be workplace safety issues your employer should address to keep everyone safe.
If you suffer a significant injury, it can be all you think about. But don’t ignore lesser injuries you incurred at the same time. It’s important to document all your injuries for insurance purposes.
For example, let’s say Bob fell off a scaffold at a construction site. He was rushed to the hospital with a compound fracture to his left leg. His severely broken leg required emergency surgery. Bob also suffered severe sprains and bruises to his neck and back, and a torn tendon on his left shoulder.
The neck, back, and shoulder injuries complicated Bob’s recovery from his broken leg. It’s critical for the workers’ comp insurance company to know the full extent of Bob’s injuries, not just the compound leg fracture. Reporting the secondary injuries will help justify his extended recovery time, and his increased temporary disability benefits.
All states require injured workers to report a work injury to their employers. Most companies have a standard injury form for workers to complete.
State workers’ compensation laws set “first report of injury” deadlines. All states have their own reporting deadlines. Some require an injured worker to report an injury within four days of an accident, or even “as soon as possible.” Most states require notification within 30 days.
If a worker fails to report their injury within the state’s deadline, they may lose their right to workers’ comp benefits. For example, Utah state law says that if an employee fails to report an injury or illness within 180 days, they may be disqualified from receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
In cases of occupational illnesses or conditions that develop gradually (e.g. carpal tunnel syndrome), the reporting clock typically begins when you discover the condition and its relationship to your work.
Many employers have strict policies for reporting occupational injuries. Most say that you must report a work injury within 24 hours of when it happened.
Your employer has the right to know when workers are injured on the job. Moreover, promptly reporting injuries helps your employer identify hazards and take steps to safeguard your co-workers. Your reporting can help prevent future accidents.
Don’t make the mistake of disregarding your company’s rules. You might receive a formal reprimand from your employer. Even worse, your employer could fire you despite your injury.
Some states require workers to report work injuries in writing. Others say it’s acceptable for employees to notify their employers verbally. If your state allows verbal notification of a work injury, make sure to follow up with a written report.
A written report is evidence that you actually notified your employer of your accident. You can submit a written report by letter or email.
Written notice of injury should include:
- Your name and contact information
- A brief description of the nature of the injuries
- The date of injury and the time of your accident
- How and where the accident occurred
- Where you have received medical treatment to date (urgent care, hospital emergency departments, etc.)
Some companies require injured workers to complete an incident report following an injury. This should suffice as proper written notice of the accident. Make a copy of the report for your records.
Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Notifying your employer of an injury is not the same as filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Your employer should give you the forms you need to fill out to make a claim. Human resources will usually file the completed workers’ compensation claim form with the insurance company. In some states, you can complete and file the form online at your state agency’s website.
Contact your state’s workers’ compensation agency if you’re unsure whether your claim was filed correctly.
Keep to the facts when notifying your employer of a work injury. Avoid offering opinions of what caused your accident or the type of injury you suffer from.
It’s enough to say that you slipped and fell on a puddle in the warehouse and hurt your wrist. Don’t speculate on the severity of the injury or how long you might be out of work. Just say you won’t know until your doctor finishes testing.
Don’t make accusations against co-workers or management, or try to guess what caused the circumstances that led to your injury. Stating opinions that don’t match the facts can ruin your credibility and might get you fired for false allegations against others.
Never exaggerate when reporting a workplace injury or filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Don’t be tempted to:
- Say you suffer from symptoms you really don’t have
- Complain of limitations you really don’t experience
- State you suffered an injury at work if you didn’t
Workers’ compensation insurance carriers carefully scrutinize every injury claim for red flags that might indicate a bogus or exaggerated injury. Even if you’ve convinced your regular doctor of your pain or mobility issues, the workers’ comp adjuster might question the severity of your injury.
A suspicious adjuster might ask you to undergo an independent medical examination with a workers’ comp doctor. The IME doctor is paid to offer an opinion on your ability to work.
If the adjuster thinks you are overstating the scope of your injuries, they are very likely to open an investigation into your claim. The adjuster doesn’t have to tell you if a private eye is following you and taking pictures, or an investigator is researching your social media activity.
If an investigation uncovers proof that a worker has intentionally overstated their injuries to collect workers’ compensation, the consequences can range from loss of benefits to criminal penalties for insurance fraud.
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