Injuries while on the job or at work happen all the time. Many people do not prepare for such thing, which is understandable, but this can lead to mistakes. When someone suffers a job injury, they need to know what to do, and also what not to do. The most common mistakes can often end up greatly decreasing the potential settlement and/or benefits someone may receive. For this reason, this article assembles the top five mistakes that people make after being injured on the job and during their subsequent workers’ compensation case.
#1: Not Reporting in a Timely Manner
The most common mistake is to not report your accident to your employer right away. 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. In the event that the injury is the result of an occupational disease, the employee has 90 days from the first sign of illness.
While some exceptions do exist, it isn’t worth suffering the injury and then 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 sort of work-related injury claim. By waiting longer than you should to report that you’ve been hurt, you run the risk of having your injury’s integrity called into question.
Don’t think that reporting your injury immediately will 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.
#2: Not Disclosing Previous Injuries
The second most common mistake made by injury victims is failing to disclose any previous work injuries. Again, even if the previous accident seemed minor or you were hurt and 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 you’re 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.
#3: Not Reporting All Injuries
The third most common mistake is failing to report the total extent of your injuries to your doctor. If you fall and hurt your back, but also experienced damage to your leg, don’t forget to disclose it. Failure to report secondary injuries, and then bringing them up later, will look as though 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 is related to the work accident. This involves more than just pain, but also: 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 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).
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. Often times, 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 Able
The fourth big mistake is refusing to return to work when you are able. (This is related to the above mistake). It may even be at a lower wage, but failure to accept the position offer 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 that you won’t be able to perform the duties of the position offered, 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 by your insurance carrier.
#5: Being the Only One without Representation
The fifth big mistake made by work-place 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 be also.
Navigating the law when it comes to 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 who has the experience and knowledge to properly represent your interests. What seems like a clear-cut case to you, may have a dozen loopholes that your insurance company can and will find.
You have nothing to lose by at least consulting with an attorney during a free consultation.
Florida’s workers’ compensation laws are so complex that an independent organization was appointed by the state legislature to interpret and oversee them. The Florida Office of the Judges of Compensation Claims (OJCC) is responsible for adjudicating worker’s compensation disputes across 17 District Offices.
Dolman Law Group has 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. Furthermore, we work on a contingency basis, meaning that you never have to pay us directly out of pocket. During a free consultation with an attorney, we can discuss the details of your incident, what should happen next, and how you can proceed. We are proud of our reputation and dependability; let us show you how we earned it. Call us today at (727) 451-6900.
*The above information was written and reviewed by either Attorney Matthew Dolman or another injury lawyer at the Dolman Law Group 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.