If you are injured at work, there are several things that you must do immediately to protect your rights. Failure to act quickly can seriously jeopardize or completely bar your right to compensation. The best way to protect your rights is to retain a qualified and experienced attorney.
In addition, in order to protect your workers’ compensation claim, you must do the following:
- Immediately Notify Your Employer If You Sustain an Injury at Work
Your claim will be denied if you fail to notify your employer of your workplace injury. It is imperative that you immediately give notice of any and all injuries sustained while in the course and scope of your employment. Make sure to confirm your notice in writing. Your written notice should be brief, but should confirm, at a minimum, the date and time of the accident, what occured, what part of your body was injured, whether there any witnesses to the accident, and who you reported the accident to.
- Seek Medical Attention Immediately
It should be obvious that obtaining immediate medical attention is the best thing to do in the event of an injury. While you may be tempted to delay initial treatment in the hopes that your condition will improve your will not be served by this decision. If you fail to seak immediate medical attention, your employer and/or their insurance company will most likely assert that your injury did not happen while at work or was of a minor nature. Therefore, it is vital to get prompt medical treatment immediately after any work place injury. It is also important to report all injuries to the doctor. Even what seems to be only a slight injury may be a much more significant medical issue.
- Promptly File Your Workers’ Compensation Claim for Benefits
In Virginia, you must file your claim for workers’ compensation benefits within two (2) years of the injury date. Delaying filing your claim only serves to delay resolving any disputes about disability benefits and medical treatment. Never assume that your employer will file a claim on your behalf with the Workers’ Compensation Commission, even in the event that you are currently receiving benefits.
- Do Not Give a Recorded Statement to Any Insurance Company
Never give a recorded statement to the insurance company, unless your attorney is present. Never sign any forms or papers until they are reviewed by a knowledgeable Virginia workers’ compensation attorney.
- Do Not Discuss Your Case With Anyone Other Than Your Attorney, and Your Medical Providers
Do not talk about your case with anyone except your lawyer and/or their assistant, and your doctors. Any statements you make about your injury and/or your work place accident to any other persons are not protected by privilege, and are discoverable by counsel for the employer and/or insurance company. Furthermore, these individuals can, and frequently are, subpoenaed to testify against you at subsequent workers’ compensation proceedings. When speaking with your doctors, be aware that they will often repeat and document what you say to them in medical records and/or reports.
- Keep All Appointments With Your Treating Doctors
Follow your doctors’ orders and treatment. Do not stop seeing your doctors until such time as they tell you that your treatment is complete, and that you have reached “maximum medical improvement.” Failure to follow your medical providers’ instructions is not only bad for your physical health and condition, it may also be used against you in the defense of your workers’ compensation case by your employer and/or their insurer.
- Request a Disability Slip Every Time You Go to the Doctor
In order to receive workers’ compensation disability benefits, you MUST provide a disability slip. This disability slip must be signed by your doctor, and specifically state the dates you are unable to work because of your injury. Even if your doctor determines that you can return to light-duty work, you must have a light duty release signed by the doctor, which specifically states your work restrictions, and how long the stated restrictions will remain in effect.
- Once you are Released to Return to Light Duty Work, Immediately Contact Your Employer
You must ask your employer if there are any light-duty jobs available that meet your doctor’s physical restrictions. Update your attorney about any changes to your work status, and advise your attorney about whether your employer has offered you a light-duty or full-duty position. If you are not under an open award but have been released to return to work light duty, you MUST attempt to retain employment within your work restrictions. You should document your attempts to look for work. You should apply for no less than 5 jobs per week and more than that if possible. Your job search log should include the name, address, and telephone number of the employer, the date you submitted the application, who the application was submitted to and any resulting communications you had with the employer. Keep copies of any applications you complete.
- Do Not Change Doctors Without a Referral, or Prior Approval by the Insurance Company
Once you have started treatment with a doctor, do not change doctors, or go to another doctor, unless your treating doctor refers you to another doctor, or the insurance company authorizes treatment with a new doctor. Otherwise, the bill may not be covered by workers’ compensation.
The insurance company may be entitled to reimbursement for any overpayments it made if you do not inform it promptly and properly that you have returned to work.
- Keep Copies of All Workers’ Compensation Checks You Receive
Copy the check, keep a stub if there is one or record the appropriate information from each check (dates of disability covered, amount of check, date issued and/or postmark).
- Send Your Attorney Copies of Any Medical Bills You Receive
Even if the insurance company has accepted your case as compensable, your attorney will not know whether the insurance company has paid your medical bills, unless you send your attorney a copy of each and every bill you receive. If you receive a bill or collection notice, send a copy to your attorney.
- Inform Your Attorney About Any Changes in Your Condition or Circumstances
You should notify your attorney immediately if your circumstances change. If you go to the hospital, visit a new doctor, start work, stop work, miss work after returning back to work, or get in a new accident, you should contact your attorney right away. Additionally, if you move or get a new phone number, submit your new information to your attorney’s office as soon as you can.
A work place injury can cause not only physical pain, injury, and suffering, but it can also cause significant financial issues due to time lost from work, and medical bills and expenses. It is imperative to retain the services of an experienced and knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney in order to protect your rights.
The attorneys of The Reed Law Firm, P.L.L.C. are experienced workers’ compensation attorneys, and can assist you with your workers’ compensation claim. Contact us today for a free consultation.