Don’t Be a Hero, Report Your Work Injuries
By Sean Lally, Staff Writer
Because work can be hard to come by, every job appears as a godsend. So it’s not surprising that you might find yourself taking every precaution to ensure you keep your position. However, you may also end up making decisions that run counter to your basic health and that ultimately weaken your position in terms of compensation. Making choices out of fear of being fired can sometimes backfire and leave you without the proper funds to take care of your injury. To that end, there are a number of things you must consider after you’ve been hurt on the job, no matter how minor the injury might appear.
Before you can do anything, you should determine if you can apply for workers’ compensation. First things first: find out if the company provides this type of benefit. In many cases, companies must have some form of coverage. In South Carolina, if there are more than four employees, the employer must supply compensation for injuries incurred on the job. Secondly, you need to make sure you’re an employee in the eyes of the law. For instance, if you’re an unpaid intern, you may not be protected by workers’ compensation. And finally, your injury needs to have occurred while working. If it happens outside work-hours then you won’t be able to receive benefits.
Report the Injury Immediately
Now that you’ve determined your eligibility for compensation you need to collect it when you can. Whether it’s because of a deep-seeded puritanical work-ethic or it’s due to a serious fear of losing your job, you might think that it’s not worth it to file an initial accident report. This can be hugely detrimental to any future attempt to collect compensation. The longer you wait, the more of a case your employer will have to refuse paying for medical expenses.
Every state has its own requirements and statute of limitations. For instance, in Pennsylvania, you have 120 days to tell your employer that an injury occurred, but in Colorado, you only have four days. So be sure to research your state’s laws.
Leave Nothing Out
Once you’re in the process of obtaining compensation, you must make sure to be fully honest about every other injury incurred while on the job. Additionally, you should tell your physician (and all other relevant parties) about every symptom and every injury, even it seems inconsequential or unrelated. Essentially, don’t leave anything out of your report to doctors or insurance adjusters. This is incredibly important because if you fail at this then you could end up dealing with accusations of fraud.
Of course, once your employer finds out about past injuries, they will most likely use that information against you, claiming that your present circumstance is the result of other injuries, thus reducing their liability. Even so, dealing with fraud would be a lot worse than dealing with counterarguments.
Take the Secondary Job Offer
After you get your injuries checked out, your physician might recommend that you take on a different task at work, something lighter so as not to aggravate your injuries. Once that news reaches your bosses desk, he or she might offer you a secondary position. You should take the job. Why? Well, in most cases, it’s not really an option to reject the newly offered position because if you refuse, your employer technically has the right to fire you. And to make matters worse you might lose your right to obtain compensation in the future. So the best course of action is to accept the offer, try your hand at the job, and if you find yourself unable to complete the necessary tasks, file another report.
If you end up with a work-related injury, you may want to reach out to an attorney who has a deep understanding of work injury cases and the underlying state law. As mentioned earlier, every state has its own guidelines, limitations and requirements. So rather than attempting to be hero and take the case yourself, you might want to ask a skilled lawyer for assistance. It can be really helpful in the long run.