The steps you take in the days and weeks following a work-related injury can greatly impact your workers' compensation claim. Without adhering to proper procedures, your claim may be denied, your benefits could be delayed or your injury may worsen if you don't take proper care.
What should you do if you've been injured on the job?
Notify your employer immediately
An employee has a duty to tell his or her employer about a work-related injury. This can be done verbally, to a supervisor or manager, or in writing. Generally, after such notification, your employer will file a First Report of Injury and alert their insurance company to investigate your claim, after which they will choose to accept or deny it. If you wait to report the injury, the insurance company has greater opportunities to contest your claim.
Unfortunately, some employers discourage the reporting of injuries (through strong workplace cultures or incentives like parties/payments if there are no lost time injury days). Furthermore, some employees do not want to "red flag" themselves, fearing termination if they report an injury. Despite these forces, early reporting of injury greatly impacts the chance that a carrier will accept the worker's compensation claim-meaning payment of medical bills and periods of time off work. Similar to other types of insurance many of us have (homeowners, rental, auto), all employers are required to have worker's compensation insurance. An employer pays premiums to have this insurance, and in turn, the insurance is there for an employer when needed-when a worker gets hurt. A worker is not suing their employer when reporting a claim; they are bringing a standard insurance claim that should be covered.
Seek medical treatment
It can be a good idea to seek medical attention as soon as possible for two significant reasons. First, your health is a primary concern, and medical professionals can help relieve pain and symptoms. Seeking out help immediately can give you an idea of the extent of the injury and what kind of treatment will be required. If you choose not to go to a doctor, your injury could worsen over time and lead to further complications. The second reason is that medical records can be used to support your workers' compensation claim as to how the injury was sustained.
Many workers try to "tough it out" or not seek medical care until "it really gets bad." Unfortunately, these "tough" workers sometimes finish last. Waiting to seek appropriate medical care can hinder proper medical care and the corresponding proper coverage under the work comp laws.
Consult with an attorney
Soon after you report the injury, you will be contacted by your employer's insurance company. Their goal is to gather information about the incident to determine whether they want to issue benefits. Insurance companies will try to minimize their losses as much as possible and saying the wrong thing to them could be just what they need to submit a denial. Consulting with an attorney before speaking to anyone about your case may be the best choice to avoid saying something that could jeopardize your claim.
If you've been injured on the job, you may be entitled to benefits. It's natural to feel overwhelmed, but it's important to remember that you don't have to go through the process alone.
There should be no fee for talking to a work comp attorney. Attorney fees in Wisconsin are contingency based, meaning the attorney gets a percentage of any recovery on disputed items.