Injured on the job? You may be eligible for workers’ compensation. This is a benefit that is set up to help workers who sustain an injury or illness related to their occupational demands.
Perhaps you slipped and fell, strained your back or shoulder due to repetitive motion, were hit by a falling object, or were burned. Whatever the cause, if you were injured while performing your job, you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation.
Workers’ compensation cases are different than personal injury lawsuits. With personal injury claims, you need to prove that someone else’s negligence caused your injuries. With workers’ compensation, you do not need to establish this breach of duty. You simply need to show that your injury was occupation-related.
Your employer offers this benefit in exchange for your agreeing not to bring further lawsuits against them. (Although in certain situations, you may still have the right to sue your employer. See #7 below for more information.)
Through workers’ compensation, employers compensate employees for lost wages and medical care in compliance with the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA). When appropriate, employers may also pay for physical and vocational rehabilitation.
At first glance, a workers’ compensation case can seem pretty simple. For starters, most employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance, so they are likely set up for claims such as yours. And since you are not responsible for proving that your employer was at fault, your case may be as simple as pointing out your injury and following the next steps to get medical care and payment for lost wages.
But while worker’s comp cases can be very straightforward, plenty of injured workers have complicated, and even sabotaged, their cases by making some costly mistakes. To ensure that you get the full scope of workers’ compensation benefits in a timely manner, avoid doing these seven things:
Waiting too long to file a claim.
As a general rule in Nevada, you need to report your injury to your employer within seven days and file a claim for compensation within 90 days. There are many reasons people delay reporting, e.g., they don’t want to appear weak or wimpy to their employer or co-workers, they are afraid of retribution from their employer, they think the injury will go away on its own, etc.
Remember that when you report a workplace injury or illness, you are not asking for some frivolous payout. You are claiming a benefit that you are entitled to under the terms of your employment. Your employer pays for insurance for this very scenario, and the insurance is upholding its end of the bargain when they compensate you.
One of the most unfortunate things we see as workers’ compensation lawyers is employees ignoring an injury and hoping it will go away. Their time to file their claim passes, and their injury doesn’t get better—it gets worse! Play it safe and report all injuries quickly to avoid this scenario.
You should not be intimidated by your employer pressuring or punishing you for reporting injuries, as this is illegal.
In addition, you can expect to receive better medical care when you are seen close to the date of the injury. This will also help your case down the line because you can clearly establish the cause of the injury and start your “paper trail” for showing a strong link between your work and your injuries.
And finally, early reporting helps ensure a more accurate investigation of the workplace incident, as the details will be fresh on everyone’s minds.
Failing to report previous injuries.
After your injury, you should go see a medical provider who has been approved by your employer. Make sure to communicate your medical history, including past injuries.
Some employees are hesitant to report their past injuries if they occurred in the same part of the body as their work injury because they fear this could hurt their case. However, a skilled doctor and workers’ compensation attorney will be able to make a case distinguishing the new injuries from the old ones.
On the other hand, if you don’t disclose past injuries, it could end up hurting your workers’ compensation case in the long run as the insurance company tries to blur the lines between the two.
It’s also common to think that you don’t need to report old injuries because they seem unrelated to new ones, but insurance companies may still find some way to connect these injuries. Full disclosure is the best policy.
Missing medical appointments.
Make sure to attend all appointments with your doctor, physical therapist, and other medical specialists. If you miss appointments, the insurance company may try to frame you as being uncommitted to healing and getting back to work.
Failing to comply with medical recommendations.
In tandem with missing appointments, some injured employees may get lax with their doctor’s recommendations. They may not do prescribed rehab exercises or stretches or take prescribed medications.
On the other hand, some people jump the gun in returning to usual activities before their doctor has authorized them (exercising, driving, playing sports, etc.). In any of these cases, the employee could be portrayed as not being invested in their improvement.
Oversharing on social media.
If you’re active on social media, now is a good time to stay off of it. Let’s say you post a picture of yourself on a basketball court when you’re supposed to be refraining from athletic activity. Whether or not you’re playing, the insurance company could try to use it as evidence that you’re not complying with your doctor’s orders.
Returning to work too late or too soon.
Your doctor will help guide you toward “maximum medical improvement” and get you safely back to work at your full capacity (if that is feasible, given your injuries). Don’t try to jump the gun, and return to work early.
On the other hand, don’t try to create further delays by refusing to return to work. If you feel you have not reached maximum improvement and are not physically ready to return to work, contact a workers’ compensation attorney.
Limiting yourself to legal recourse through workers’ compensation.
While workers’ compensation alone is enough to get many injured workers the benefits they are entitled to, the system doesn’t work for everyone. There are many reasons you may need to hire a Las Vegas work injury attorney to get the full compensation that you are owed. They include:
- Your rightful benefits are denied or delayed
- You don’t trust the doctor(s) that you are authorized to see
- You have a pre-existing condition that could interfere with your claim
- Your employer says your injury/illness is not covered by workers’ compensation
- You did not file on time because your symptoms were slow to develop