Although workers’ compensation laws are meant to provide no-fault insurance to workers who are injured on the job, in some cases a worker can have difficulty navigating the often-complex system. There are times when there is no alternative for an injured worker other than to hire an attorney who can help ensure the worker receives benefits he or she is rightfully entitled to. There are, however, certain actions workers can take to enhance the success of a workers’ comp claim—and certain lack of actions which should be avoided. These include the following:
- Not giving a timely notice of on-the-job injury to your employer is, perhaps, the number one mistake made by those who go on to file a workers’ compensation claim. In some cases, workers don’t notify their employer because they don’t think the injury is very serious, or they don’t want to be seen as a complainer by their employer. Alabama law requires workers to give notice of a workplace accident to their supervisor within five days of the accident. Even waiting the allowable five days, however, can lead an employer to believe the injury was sustained somewhere besides on the job. Thinking your injury is not that serious, or waiting to see just how serious it may be, is a serious mistake. If you suffer an injury on the job—don’t wait. Immediately notify your supervisor of the accident. You can tell your supervisor you are not sure just how serious the injury is until you see a doctor. If it turns out the injury is really not that serious, no harm has been done. If your injury is serious and will require extensive medical treatment (and expense) or will require that you take time away from work, you have met your burden of giving prompt notice. Additionally, just telling your supervisor in passing that “I think I pulled a muscle when I was taking out the trash,” is generally not sufficient notification. Be specific, by telling your supervisor the time of the accident/injury, as well as exactly what you were doing, and what you think your injuries may be.
- Believing the workers’ comp claims adjuster is your friend can be a dangerous assumption. Insurance adjusters are people, and, as such, may be nice, or not so nice. Either way, it is a mistake to forget that the adjuster’s goal is to save the insurance company money. No matter how friendly the adjuster seems, or how often he or she calls to check up on how you are doing, unfortunately there is little chance the adjuster actually cares about your injury and your future. Your hiring a Huntsville workers’ compensation attorney is not in the best interests of the insurance company, neither is helping you fully understand your rights under Alabama workers’ compensation laws. Some insurance adjusters will even hire a private investigator who will covertly follow you to see whether you are as injured as you claim. The takeaway? Be on your guard with your workers’ comp claims adjuster, or, better still, speak to an attorney who can guide you through the workers’ comp maze, with a goal of a more positive outcome.
- Failing to properly explain your on-the-job injury to your physician. It is important to remember your benefits will be based on your medical records as well as the accident report. In the event of a dispute, your doctor’s report will be given considerable weight, therefore make sure you fully explain how your accident occurred at work, how your injury has affected your day-to-day life, and how you expect your recovery from the accident to impact your ability to return to work or regular activities.
- Failing to follow through with your doctor’s treatment plan. When you are injured on the job, you may be required to receive treatment from your employer’s authorized treating physician in order to have your medical expenses fully covered. The Alabama Workers’ Compensation Act gives your employer the right to select your physician with a few exceptions. Workers’ compensation does not allow you to be billed for authorized medical treatments resulting from your workplace injury, however there may be specific rules you are required to follow. If you refuse to follow the treatment set forth by the physician, your compensation can be suspended during the period of your refusal.
- Agreeing to a workers’ comp settlement without having legal representation can be a major mistake. The three areas of workers’ compensation which have monetary value include benefits for a permanent physical impairment, future medical benefits and vocational benefits. A workers’ compensation claims adjuster may offer you a settlement in one of these areas, then include the other areas in that settlement without your approval. Settlement paperwork may be written in a way that makes it extremely difficult to understand. In order to avoid compromising your future, have a knowledgeable Huntsville workers’ compensation attorney review any offer of settlement to ensure the offer is reasonable and fair.
- Returning to work too quickly can also be a major mistake. You may either return to work too quickly out of loyalty to your employer, or because your employer or the insurer may be pushing you to return. If your employer’s insurer has asked your employer to find some sort of work you can do while you are recovering from your workplace injury, request a description of the proposed job duties. Have your doctor review the job duties to ensure you can safely do the work. For the sake of your health, as well as in the interest of obtaining full workers’ compensation benefits, don’t do any work without your doctor’s approval.
- Accepting an inaccurate disability rating can completely skewer your future. If you are unable to recover from your workplace injury, your employer-chosen doctor may assign you a permanent partial disability rating once he or she believes you have reached maximum medical improvement. This rating is crucial in determining your final workers’ comp settlement amount. A lower rating can significantly decrease your benefits. It may be necessary to have an experienced attorney challenge your disability rating.
If you have experienced any problems related to obtaining workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to, speaking to a Martinson & Beason attorney could allow you to heal without having to deal with the stress of ensuring you receive those benefits. Working with our highly experienced attorneys can help you understand how the system works, advising you how to best avoid crucial mistakes. Our attorneys have a long history of excellence, as well as scores of satisfied clients to our credit. Our legal accolades in the industry translate into quality representation for you. Don’t wait—call Martinson & Beason today for a comprehensive evaluation of your Huntsville workers’ compensation claim.