Most people think they will never be the one who gets hurt at work, but the fact is, workplace injuries happen at an alarmingly high rate, especially in construction and other heavy duty work environments. Most injured workers are understandably unprepared when they find themselves hurt at work – this often leads to costly mistakes. Not only can a mistake early on cost you money, but it can also cost you much needed medical treatment. Below are the top five mistakes injured workers make after their on the job injury:
#1 – NOT REPORTING THEIR INJURY TIMELY
In South Carolina, you have generally 90 days to give your employer “notice” of your workplace injury or you risk barring your right to recovery. You should always have an incident report completed when possible. This is important to not only document what happened, but to start the reporting process. Insurance companies often delay treatment when injuries are not reported “timely” – which for insurance companies can mean just a few days after the injury. Always report your injury immediately to your supervisor or manager, if possible.
Don’t think that reporting your injury means you will get fired. In fact, South Carolina has laws in place to protect workers against this sort of behavior by their employer, and if it does occur, the law is designed to punish your employer.
#2 – NOT REPORTING ALL INJURED BODY PARTS
Often times, injuries involve more than one body part. If you are injured be sure to tell your employer and all doctors everything that hurts. So, if you fall and hurt your back, but also feel pain in your leg or arm, be sure to disclose that. Failure to report an injured body part can make it more difficult to get the necessary treatment later down the road. This is another insurance company “red flag” event which likely will cause delays in your case.
Even if you think that your injury “isn’t that bad” or it is getting better, be sure to let the doctor know exactly how you are feeling. “If it’s not in the medical records, it may as well never happened” is how most insurance companies view your claim. If you think your doctor is not addressing your complaints then be sure to let your attorney know.
#3 – LYING ABOUT PREVIOUS INJURIES
People defending their workers’ comp claims are often their own worst enemy, especially when they try to conceal prior claims. Assuredly, the insurance company will find out about all of your prior claims – this includes not just work injures, but also car accidents, slip and falls, etc. It is always best to be forthright about your past medical history.
Having a prior injury typically does not bar you from recovery. In South Carolina, if you aggravate or exacerbate (make worse) a prior injury it is a compensable claim as long as the doctor agrees your work injury made it worse. However, if you fail to disclose your prior injury and it is later discovered, you could be accused of fraud and may have your claim denied at that point. Also, if you failed to disclose prior injuries on an employment application this could be a bar to recovery, but that is not always true.
Having a skilled workers’ compensation attorney who knows the ins-and-outs of the laws will help ensure you get the treatment and money you deserve.
#4 – MISSING WORK WITHOUT A DOCTOR’S EXCUSE
It is tempting to sit at home and recover from your work injury, but unless the workers’ compensation doctor has written you out of work you won’t be receiving any checks and likely will be fired for not showing up. Sometimes, you will be told to return to “light or modified duty”. If your employer offers this, you MUST accept it or risk being terminated for cause.
If you cannot do the tasks required of you then let your doctor and attorney know after informing your employer. You will need a note from your doctor saying you are “out of work” at that point to ensure you receive your weekly checks. In the event you can only return to work part time, you are likely entitled to partial weekly checks to make up for the difference in lost wages.
#5 – TRYING TO SETTLE THEIR CLAIM ON THEIR OWN
The final mistake made by individuals suffering from a work injury is thinking they can handle the case on their own without a South Carolina workers’ comp lawyer on your side. 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. Why should you not have the same advantage?
Navigating the laws of workers’ compensation when it comes to the complex inter-working 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 the insurance company can and will find.
You may also have a separate claim if you were injured by the negligence of a third party. You could potentially be losing out on thousands or millions of dollars depending on your injury.