American laborers and employees are injured at work every day. If you work in a heavy labor job, you are constantly on your feet and performing perilous tasks. Even one mistake from a fellow co-worker or employer could lead to a severe work injury, such as broken bones, lacerations, and infections.
If you suffered an injury at work, regardless of whose fault it may be, a worker's comp attorney could help you pursue compensation for your losses. Most people are not prepared for a work injury, which is understandable. However, not knowing what to do after an injury at work can lead to mistakes and financial losses.
If you suffer an injury at work, it's important to understand the basics of work injury law so you know what to do and what not to do. Read on to learn about the most common mistakes many injured employees make so you can help maximize the settlement or benefits you may receive after a work injury.
- What is Considered a Work Injury?
- The 5 Most Common Mistakes Employees Make After Being Injured at Work
- #1: Failing to Report Your Job Injury in a Timely Manner
- #2: Not Disclosing Previous Workplace Injuries
- #3: Not Reporting the Full Extent of Your Workplace Injuries
- #4: Refusing to Return to Work When You Are Able
- #5: Being the Only Party without Representation
- What Damages Can I Pursue Through a Worker's Compensation Claim?
- Contact Dolman Law Group When You Have Suffered an Injury at Work for Help With Your Workers' Compensation Claim
What is Considered a Work Injury?
For a work injury to qualify as a worker's compensation claim, it must occur on the job and within the scope of an employee's duties. Severe injuries that the worker causes intentionally, while they are intoxicated, or while not using mandatory safety equipment are usually not covered by workers' compensation laws.
The good news is that workers' comp is available to injured employees regardless of who is at fault in most other situations. Proving negligence is not a relevant factor, unlike car accident lawsuits or slip and fall claims. Workers' comp insurance provides coverage for financial losses, including medical bills, lost wages, and disability benefits, in exchange for the employer being released from any future lawsuits related to the injury.
When You Can File a Workers' Compensation Claim
To qualify for an injury claim under work injury laws, you must be an employee of a company that is obligated to carry workers' compensation insurance coverage for its employees. Independent contractors, consultants, and certain other workers do not have the right to bring a workers' comp claim. Check with an experienced work injury lawyer to learn if you qualify to bring a work comp claim for your work-related injuries.
In some situations, you may have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit over a workplace injury instead of or in addition to a workers' compensation claim. For example:
- If a third party caused your accident (not your employer),
- If your injury was intentionally caused by someone (could be your employer or a third party),
- If your employer impeded your ability to seek workers' compensation benefits, for example, by failing to report your claim to the insurance company, or
- If your employer does not have any workers' comp insurance to provide.
The workers' comp system is streamlined so that employees can get the coverage they need while employers and the courts are spared many lawsuits. This does not mean that workers' compensation claims can always be resolved without issue.
The 5 Most Common Mistakes Employees Make After Being Injured at Work
Without legal guidance, many workers make mistakes that prevent them from collecting compensation that could pay for their work injury losses. Here are the top five mistakes people make after suffering a work injury and the potential effects on their subsequent workers' compensation cases.
#1: Failing to Report Your Job Injury in a Timely Manner
The most common mistake is not reporting your accident to your employer immediately. 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. If the injury is the result of an occupational disease, the employee has 90 days from the first sign of illness.
While some exceptions exist, it isn't worth suffering the injury and 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 work-related injury claim. By waiting longer than you should to report your injury, you risk having your injury's integrity called into question.
Don't think that reporting your job injury will immediately 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. It also can help with the claims process because you will have a paper trail for the timeline of your injury.
#2: Not Disclosing Previous Workplace Injuries
The second most common mistake made by injured workers is failing to disclose any previous work injuries. Even if the previous accident seemed minor or you 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 benefits 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 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 raised by insurers. However, arguing about an MCC and whether or not it was work-related is much easier than fighting worker's compensation fraud.
What is Major Contributing Cause?
According to Florida Statute 440.09, a major contributing cause refers to a cause that is considered responsible for at least 50% of the damages. In the context of a worker's comp claim, an employer is liable to pay for the damages of a workplace injury if their negligence is the major contributing cause of the injury.
There are likely many different causes for an injury, as many facets can go into how an injury occurs. However, you can file a worker's comp claim if the employer has contributed over half of the blame for the workplace injury. For you to receive compensation, your worker's compensation lawyer must prove your employer's negligence was the major contributing cause by providing substantial evidence.
#3: Not Reporting the Full Extent of Your Workplace Injuries
The third most common mistake is failing to report the total extent of your job injuries to your doctor. If you fall at work and hurt your back but also experience damage to your leg, don't forget to mention both injuries. Failure to report secondary injuries will look like 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 are related to the work accident. This involves more than just pain and can include 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 you may feel 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).
Talk to Your Doctor for a Proper Diagnosis of Your Job Injuries
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 relates to a diagnosis, treatment plan, or any other information. Oftentimes, 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: Refusing to Return to Work When You Are Able
The fourth big mistake is not returning to work when you can. Failure to accept a position, even at a lower wage, 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 you won't be able to perform the position's duties, 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 from your insurance carrier.
#5: Being the Only Party without Representation
The fifth big mistake of workplace 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 work with an experienced lawyer as well. Insurance companies are not your friends, despite what they say and how they present themselves. It is in their best interest to pay you as little as possible for your injuries. Limiting your compensation or even denying your claim keeps money in their pockets and helps them profit.
Navigating the law regarding 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 with the experience and knowledge to represent your interests properly. What seems like a clear-cut case to you may have a dozen loopholes that the insurance company can and will find.
Insurance companies excel at taking advantage of these loopholes and utilizing a number of tricks to manipulate people with workers' compensation claims into making mistakes that can compromise their cases. With an experienced workers' compensation lawyer at your side, it sends a message to your employer and the insurance company that you are to be taken seriously.
You have nothing to lose by at least meeting with a worker's compensation attorney during a free consultation
Florida's workers' compensation laws are so complex that the state legislature appointed an independent organization to interpret and oversee them. The Florida Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC) adjudicates worker's compensation disputes across 17 District Offices.
What Damages Can I Pursue Through a Worker's Compensation Claim?
There are four categories of compensation that worker's compensation benefits allow you to pursue: wage replacement, medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation, and other benefits. Under each of these categories, there are individual damages that you can claim compensation for. A workers comp attorney can help you assess what damages you may be entitled to.
The following are some of the damages you could pursue through worker's compensation:
Contact Dolman Law Group When You Have Suffered an Injury at Work for Help With Your Workers' Compensation Claim
Pursuing compensation for a workplace injury can be challenging. There is the pressure of not knowing whether you might lose your job, on top of the treatment and recovery of the injury itself. A worker's comp lawyer can help you through the process and ensure your thoughts and concerns are considered.
Dolman Law Group is a renowned personal injury law firm with extensive experience representing worker's compensation claims made by those suffering from lost wages, physical and mental disabilities, and the stressful costs associated with the aftermath of a work injury. Our worker's compensation lawyers will help you every step of the way in your pursuit of fair compensation and maintain close communication the entire time. Furthermore, we work on a contingency basis, meaning that you never have to pay us directly out of pocket.
Injured at work? Contact Dolman Law Group for a free consultation.
During a free consultation with a dedicated workers' compensation attorney, we can discuss the details of your incident, what should happen next, and how you can proceed in filing a worker's compensation claim. We are proud of our reputation and dependability; let us show you how we earned it. Call us today at (727) 451-6900 or fill out our contact form online.
*The above information was written and reviewed by either Attorney Matthew Dolman or another injury lawyer at the Dolman Law Group Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, which has a combined 115-plus years of experience practicing Florida personal injury law. Matthew Dolman himself has been practicing personal injury law in Clearwater and St. Petersburg for the last fifteen (15) years. The information provided comes from extensive research and years of experience trying legal cases in courtrooms throughout Florida.