Injuries suffered on the job happen all the time. If you work in a heavy labor job, you are constantly on your feet and performing perilous tasks. Even one mistake from fellow co-worker or employer could lead to a severe injury, such as broken bones, lacerations, and infections.
If you were injured at work due to negligence, a worker’s comp attorney could help you pursue compensation for your damages. However, many people do not prepare for a work injury, which is understandable but can lead to mistakes. When someone suffers a job injury, they need to know what to do and what not to do. The most common mistakes can significantly decrease the potential settlement or benefits someone may receive.
What is Considered a Work Injury?
A work injury that you can pursue payment for through a worker’s compensation claim needs to occur on the job and within the scope of an employee’s duties. Severe injuries suffered intentionally, while intoxicated, or due to the foregoing of mandatory safety equipment are usually exempt from coverage.
The good news is that workers comp is available to injured employees regardless of fault in pretty much any other case. Negligence is not a deciding factor like in car accident lawsuit or slip and fall. You are afforded coverage for things like medical bills, lost wages, and disability benefits through workers comp but this comes at the expense of employer immunity from lawsuits over the injury.
When You Can File a Workers’ Compensation Lawsuit
In order to file a lawsuit over a workplace injury you would have to either sue a third party, you would sue over an injury intentionally caused by an employer, you could sue an employer if they impeded your ability to seek workers’ compensation benefits by doing something like failing to report your claim to the insurance company, or you could sue your employer if they do not have any workers’ comp insurance to provide.
The workers’ comp system is streamlined this way 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 filed without issue.
Many workers make mistakes that prevent them from collecting compensation that could pay for their workplace damages. Here are the top five mistakes people make after suffering a work injury and their subsequent workers’ compensation case.
#1: Not Reporting 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, as you can have a paper trail for the timeline of your injury.
#2: Not Disclosing Any 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 finances 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. 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 with them if they have 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.
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#3: Not Reporting All 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 disclose it. 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 be 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: Not Returning to Work When You Are Able
The fourth big mistake is refusing to return to work when you can. Failure to accept a position offer, 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 independently without legal representation. While you are allowed to represent yourself in court, 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 be as well. Insurance companies are not your friends despite what they say and how they present themselves. It is within 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 your 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 consulting 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 for Help With Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
Pursuing compensation for a workplace injury caused by negligence can be challenging. There is the pressure of not knowing whether you might lose your job, on top of the pain 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 loss of wages, physical and mental disabilities, and the stressful costs associated with the aftermath of on-the-job injuries. Our worker’s compensation lawyers will help you every step of the way in your pursuit of rightful 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 on the job? Contact Dolman Law Group for a free consultation.
During a free consultation with an 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 a 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 90 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.