In the United States, employers in almost all 50 states are required to carry workers' compensation insurance to ensure employees are covered if they develop work-related injuries or illnesses. The requirements vary from state to state, but employers are typically allowed to purchase insurance coverage from a state-administered fund or a commercial insurance company. Some states even allow employers to self-insure, which means the employer pays any workers' compensation claims out of pocket rather than having them covered by a state fund or commercial insurance carrier. Although employers are ultimately responsible for ensuring that employees are treated appropriately for occupational injuries and illnesses, covered employees also have several obligations. If you are relying on workers' compensation to pay for your work-related medical expenses, avoid these four critical mistakes.
1. Failing to Seek Medical Care
If your injury seems minor at first, you may not want to leave work to seek medical attention. This is a big mistake for two major reasons. First, seeking immediate medical attention gives you the best chance of a quick diagnosis and full recovery. If your injury is more serious than it seems, delaying treatment can lead to poor outcomes. Second, the longer you wait to see a doctor, the more likely it is that your employer will try to argue that your injury did not occur at work. Workers' compensation only covers work-related injuries and illnesses, so if your employer can convince a judge that your injury is not job-related, you may have to pay out of pocket for your medical expenses.
2. Failing to Follow Your Treatment Plan
Once you have a diagnosis, your care team will develop a treatment plan designed to ease your symptoms and help you make a full recovery. Depending on the type of injury you sustained, your treatment plan may include physical therapy, medications, occupational therapy, or even surgery. It is extremely important that you follow this treatment plan to the letter. If you do not follow the doctor's orders, your workers' compensation claim may be denied, leaving you to pay all of your injury-related medical expenses on your own.
3. Lying to Your Doctor
In some cases, injured employees make the mistake of exaggerating their symptoms because they believe it will make them more credible. This can backfire, especially if the treating physician realizes that you are exaggerating. Reporting symptoms that you have not actually experienced is something else you should avoid. If you give the physician any reason to distrust what you are saying about your injury, you could lose your workers' compensation case. Instead of exaggerating or lying, be honest with the doctor. List the symptoms you are experiencing and explain how those symptoms are affecting your daily life.
4. Not Working with an Attorney
No law says that you have to work with an attorney during your workers' compensation case. It may be tempting to represent yourself to save money, but going to a workers' compensation hearing without an experienced attorney can have disastrous consequences. Most people cannot afford to pay thousands of dollars to doctors, physical therapists, and other medical professionals, but if your claim is denied, that's exactly what might happen. An experienced attorney can help you gather evidence to support your claim, hire medical experts to consult on your case, represent you at hearings and depositions, and work to minimize any weaknesses in your case. If you have to negotiate a settlement with an insurance company, your workers' compensation lawyer can also estimate how much you should be paid based on the severity of your injury, your current medical expenses, and any future medical expenses.
Workers' compensation is a complex area of the law. If you were injured at work, don't try to fight your employer's insurance company on your own. Hire a workers' compensation attorney at a firm, such as Gilbert, Blaszcyk & Milburn LLP, to protect your interests from the time you are injured until the settlement is finalized.