Avoid these missteps to increase your chances of having your Georgia workers’ compensation claim approved.
If you’re injured at work, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills and lost wages. However, the amount of compensation that you receive may depend on the steps that you take (or don’t take) immediately after getting hurt.
Let’s take a look at what not to do while on workers’ comp or while waiting to receive workers’ comp benefits. Following these simple tips will help expedite the treatment of your injury and ensure your rights to compensation are protected.
Mistake #1: Signing anything before consulting your lawyer.
After a workplace accident, your employer may be just as worried about how much your injury will cost the company as they are about your recovery. The insurance company representing your employer will also want to do whatever it can to pay as little as possible.
Therefore, you may be asked to sign a settlement agreement or a document limiting the exposure that your employer or its insurance provider may face. It’s never a good idea to sign anything without having your attorney review it first. Doing so could limit your rights to obtain a financial award or file a lawsuit at any point in the future.
Mistake #2: Forgetting to report the accident
to your employer right away.
It’s important that you tell your employer about your injuries as soon as they occur. However, that’s not always possible, as you may be in a situation where your supervisor is unavailable. In this case, it’s best to document the accident in writing through an email so there’s a record of you reporting it in a timely manner.
If there’s a form to fill out, make sure you do so, and retain a copy for your records. If there isn’t a form to fill out, you should self-record the injury by writing down the following:
- What happened
- What body part was injured
- When the injury took place
- Where the injury took place
- Who witnessed the accident
Your immediate recollections of the injury are the best record of what happened.
This can make it easier to prove that your injuries were caused by an accident at work, as opposed to at home or anywhere else. Furthermore, choosing to wait to tell your employer about the accident may make it appear as if your injuries aren’t as severe as you claim.
Finally, failing to report the accident right away can make it harder to remember key details about what happened. This could be used against you during the workers’ compensation claim process or during a personal injury lawsuit.
If, for whatever reason, you’re unable to report the injury right away, don’t assume that you’re barred from bringing a claim.
The statute of limitations on reporting a workers’ compensation claim is 30 days, but there are a few circumstances that can extend this period.
If you’re hurt on the job, report the injury even if you failed to do so immediately.
Mistake #3: Casually talking about the case.
You should avoid discussing the details of your case with friends, co-workers and others until it’s closed. This is because any comments you make that contradict your official statement about what happened during the incident could undermine your credibility.
If you have to meet with a doctor or anyone else who represents your employer’s interests, only mention the relevant facts of the matter. These facts might include the time of the incident, why it happened and the steps you took to seek treatment afterward. It’s never a good idea to talk about your feelings about the case or anything else that may be more subjective in nature, as it could be used against you.
Mistake #4: Posting on social media.
It’s not just face-to-face conversations about your accident that should be limited during your workers’ comp claim. You should also try to minimize or stop your activity on social media after a work injury.
Anything that you post on social media can be used by insurance companies to prove that your injuries aren’t as substantial as you claim. Even the fact that you’re active online can be used as evidence that your quality of life hasn’t been affected by your accident.
Mistake #5: Avoiding treatment.
It’s critical that you seek treatment for your injuries as soon as possible. This is true even if it means you have to leave work to do so. However, unless it’s an emergency, don’t try and seek immediate medical attention without first reporting the incident to your employer.
When someone is injured on the job, they have a right to receive medical treatment for that body part, paid for by the insurance carrier. If you’ve reported your injury, you may be able to immediately see a doctor.
A doctor will be able to start a file that will provide details about your injuries, including what caused them. Additionally, the doctor may be able to put you on a treatment plan that will help you recover quickly.
Mistake #6: Hiding previous injuries.
If you aggravate a prior injury or pre-existing medical condition at work, it may still fall under workers’ compensation. This insurance covers employees who are hurt at work, including reinjuring a body part that was already hurt.
If you’re concerned about how an old injury or pre-existing condition could affect your claim, discuss your concerns with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can explain your rights.
Mistake #7: Ignoring a doctor’s treatment plan.
Follow the treatment plan your doctor comes up with. Failing to do so could be seen as a sign that you aren’t hurt as badly as you claim. It could also be used by your employer as a reason not to pay for lost wages or other costs incurred after an accident.
Generally speaking, a treatment plan could restrict how much you can carry or how long you can exert yourself at any given time. It may also place a limit on your ability to drive or the number of hours you can work in a day or week.
Mistake #8: Worrying about who is to blame.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault liability system. This means there doesn’t have to be negligence on anyone else’s part for you to recover benefits. In fact, even if the accident was completely your fault, you may be eligible for compensation under Georgia workers’ comp laws.
Mistake #9: Downplaying the extent of your injuries.
Never “put on a tough face” when seeking workers’ compensation. Be open and truthful about how much you’re hurting, how much assistance you need, and how your injury impacts your ability to work. Your honesty can help you receive maximum compensation.
Mistake #10: Missing medical appointments.
You should attend every scheduled medical appointment to properly document your injury and its progression. Take extra care if you’ve been scheduled for an appointment with an independent medical exam (IME) doctor. Failure to attend appointments and follow treatment orders could cause your benefits to stop.
Mistake #11: Refusing to return to work when cleared by your doctor or refusing light-duty work.
To receive workers’ compensation, you’re legally obligated to return to work (regular or light duty) after your doctor clears you to do so. If you disagree with the doctor’s assessment that you’re ready to return to work, your attorney may be able to help you obtain a second opinion, but you should follow all doctor’s orders until that time.
Mistake #12: Quitting your job.
Never quit your job while you’re receiving workers’ comp benefits before talking to an attorney. Quitting your job violates workers’ comp labor policies, just like refusing to return to work when your doctor gives you the all-clear, which could result in your benefits being canceled.
Mistake #13: Starting a side business or taking an additional job.
While it may seem like a good way to make some extra money during your recovery, it’s not a wise idea to start a new job or business venture while receiving workers’ comp. Both of these actions will imply that you’re healthy enough to continue working, which can hurt your claim that you need workers’ compensation benefits. Always consult a workers’ compensation attorney before taking on any new work.
Mistake #14: Taking the first settlement offer.
Insurance companies almost always give a “lowball” first offer. Remember that their goal is to make money, so they want to pay you as little as possible. Always seek the advice of an attorney before accepting a workers’ comp settlement, especially if you have catastrophic injuries that may result in the need for long-term medical treatment or permanent disability.
Mistake #15: Navigating the workers’ compensation process alone.
There are countless rules and regulations in the workers’ compensation sphere. Many of them are quite confusing and some are extremely time sensitive. The insurance company and their lawyers know the ins and outs of this landscape.
It’s crucial to hire an experienced work injury attorney to help with your case, as they will have an understanding of workers’ compensation laws in Georgia. Furthermore, an attorney may be able to help you with what not to say to a workers’ comp doctor, insurance adjuster and other individuals. In some cases, your attorney will file a lawsuit to make sure that you don’t accidentally allow a statute of limitations to expire.
Following the advice of your attorney and your doctor is the best way to obtain a favorable outcome in your work injury case. Let Gerber & Holder Workers’ Compensation Attorneys fight this battle for you!