Dispelling Top 7 Myths about Pursuing Workers Compensation
Workers’ compensation can be confusing. To help clarify the pervasive misinformation surrounding this coverage, here are a few common myths associated with the system – and why they’re wrong.
Workers’ compensation or “workers’ comp” can be a tricky system to navigate. Employees are often unaware they even have this type of coverage. Furthermore, many employers are all too eager to play down the coverage and may not appropriately inform their workers of their rights.
To help clarify some of the pervasive misinformation surrounding this coverage, we’ve compiled a list of the most common workers’ compensation myths — and why they’re false.
Myth #1: Workers’ compensation claims can be filed at any time after an injury
Many workers assume they can file their workers’ compensation claim any time after they are injured. Actually, there are statutes of limitations on when you can file your claims. Most of the time, this will differ by state, but it usually lands within the first few months after your injury.
The date at which the clock starts ticking on your statute of limitations is generally the date that you are injured. Only in some specific cases can you claim another date for the start of your injury. Generally speaking, this only happens with brain injuries. For example, let’s say you are hit on the head and sustain a concussion but are able to continue working for several weeks. After this time, you start to notice signs of impairment and are diagnosed with a brain injury. If this is the case, you could technically claim the date that you started noticing the signs of impairment as the start date for your statute of limitations when filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Myth #2: You can’t file a claim because the accident and injury were your fault
Actually, even if the accident was your fault, you can still file a workers’ comp claim. That’s because workers’ comp is “no-fault,” meaning if you were seriously injured on the job — no matter whose fault it was — you can get workers’ compensation.
Still, there are unique situations wherein you cannot file a claim. For example, if you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs while the accident happened, it’s not likely you’ll be able to receive workers’ compensation. Similarly, if you are claiming a “mental illness injury,” this is quite difficult to trace to an on-the-job cause, and likely, no compensation would be awarded.
Myth #3: Making a workers’ compensation claim could get you fired
Unfortunately, this is a common misconception among employees and it is sometimes perpetuated by employers. There are often stories circulating about individuals losing their jobs once they file a workers’ compensation claim.
What’s most important to know here is it is 100% illegal to fire an individual for filing a worker’s compensation claim. If you have a right to workers’ compensation in your work, you have a right to file a claim if and when you are seriously injured. Your employer cannot fire you for this reason. They need reasonable cause in order to fire an employee and filing a workers’ compensation claim is not reasonable cause. If an employer tells you this or threatens you with firing, you should seek legal assistance from a reputable lawyer in your area.
Myth #4: Once your workers’ compensation is paid, you don’t need to do anything else
Naturally, as you heal from your injuries, you’ll need to rest at home and monitor your healing process. But this does not mean you do not need to continue contact with your employer. In fact, you must maintain frequent contact with your employer in order to keep them abreast of your healing and let them know when you’ll be able to return to work. Many companies offer return-to-work programs that start you out with part-time work as you adapt back to your employment after recovery. In these cases, your work would make up part of your salary and the rest would be made up by benefits from your workers’ compensation.
Myth #5: If you had a prior history of medical issues when you started working, you cannot receive workers’ compensation payments.
There are laws that prevent this. If you had prior medical issues when you began employment or if you are older, you cannot be penalized for these traits. This means you would receive workers’ compensation for any injury just as any other employee would.
Myth #6: If you were injured during a break or lunch, workers’ compensation will not cover you
In general, this will depend on what you were doing during the break and whether or not your break involved activities that were taking care of your own personal needs while on the job. For example, if you were going to the bathroom, eating, or doing something else that is absolutely necessary for your personal comfort and health, then these are actually considered duties that contribute to your ability to do your job properly. In other words, if you didn’t do these things — like going to the bathroom when necessary and eating — you could not do your job duties.
On the other hand, if you were injured while partaking in an unusually risky activity during your break or if you were doing something that was completely unnecessary for your health and well-being, this may not be covered under workers’ compensation.
Myth #7: Workers’ compensation will take care of all injury-related costs.
Finally, it is not necessarily true workers’ compensation is going to take care of every single one of your injury-related costs. In fact, some costs may be left out of your payments. Of course, all of this depends on your unique situation and the unique injuries you incurred.
As an example, workers’ compensation claims never include payments for pain and suffering. If you feel that you specifically deserve payments for pain and suffering, you would need to file a third-party claim with a lawyer’s help.
In many situations, you would not be able to file this claim against your employer. But you may be able to file a claim against a third-party — that is, another involved party whose negligence contributed to your injuries. For example, if you were driving a delivery truck for your job, and another driver crashed into, you may be able to file a suit against that driver.
Finding a Lawyer
If you were seriously injured on the job and are now unable to work and facing all kinds of medical bills, you deserve to be covered and protected. Workers’ compensation insurance is in place to do this. However, sometimes the system gets difficult to understand. It’s not uncommon for those who deserve workers’ comp to end up not receiving their fair share of coverage.
AUTHOR: Kirk Farrar, Matthew Henessy, and Drew Tanner
Copyright Farrar, Hennesy & Tanner, LLC
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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.