Workplace injuries can take all kinds of forms, from chronic soft tissue strain to an acute fracture or other serious event. Fortunately, almost all states require employers to provide workers' compensation coverage. Less fortunately, many workers' compensation claims don't actually produce the financial support their applicants had hoped for. If you plan on making a workers' compensation claim, you need to know that you're doing all of the right things—and none of the wrong ones—to secure a satisfactory outcome. Here are four common mistakes you want to watch out for as you apply for workers' compensation.
1. Not Taking Action ASAP
Different states have different deadlines for filing workplace injury claims, ranging from 90 days to 6 years from the date of the injury. But don't assume that you have a similarly long time to report your injury to your employer. The timeframe for this action varies from 72 hours to 180 days from state to state. Make a point of reporting your injury to your supervisor or employer as soon as possible. If you miss this reporting window, you may not be allowed to file a workers' compensation claim at all. Even if you have a fair amount of time to act on your claim, not doing so immediately can prove to be a grave error, especially if your employment is terminated for any reason before you've taken action.
2. Putting Off Your Medical Care
Delaying your pursuit of medical exams and treatment can place your claim in jeopardy. for one thing, the insurance company is likely to wonder why, if your situation is so serious, you saw fit to put off medial attention for it. Additionally, the longer you wait to get medical care, the longer you'll be waiting for that critical diagnosis and other professional documentation that your claim needs. Schedule your first medical appointment as soon as you can, making sure that the practitioner you see is actually qualified to evaluate and treat workers' compensation cases.
3. Failing to Back Up Your Claim
Delayed or incomplete medical documentation isn't the only informational failure that can capsize your claim. From the first moments following your injury, you should be gathering witnesses, taking pictures, noting any faulty equipment or other contributing workplace failures, and grabbing whatever other data you can find to help back up the claim you intend to file. An attorney who specializes in workers' compensation law can advise you on what details you need to include—but for now, assume that no supporting detail is too small or insignificant to collect and record.
4. Agreeing to an Insufficient Settlement
At a certain point you may be asked to undergo an evaluation that estimates your degree of permanent disability. The resulting disability rating will determine whether you're going to receive ongoing compensation or a flat-fee settlement, as well as the amount of those awards. You will then be asked to sign a settlement agreement. Signing this document means that you agree with the settlement offer and won't seek additional compensation. Whatever you do, don't sign this agreement if you're unhappy with the amount offered; otherwise, you could end up accepting way too little money for your present and future needs, especially if you can no longer earn a living. Ask a workers' compensation attorney about your options. You may have an an opportunity to undergo a second evaluation by a different doctor that results in a higher impairment rating (and thus a higher settlement amount).
The workers' compensation journey can be a formidable one, and it's all too easy to neglect a small but important step along the way. Pay attention to details, ask your doctor and attorney plenty of questions, and keep in touch with your employer and caseworker from beginning to end. With any luck, you'll receive the compensation necessary to help you survive and thrive in the face of your injury.