Workplace injuries are a fact of modern life and many workers get injured on the job every day in Maryland. But most workers, even those in high-risk fields, do not spend a lot of their free time preparing personal game-plans for what to do if they get hurt on the job. This mentality is easy to understand, but it can be detrimental.
If you suffer a work-related injury, knowing what to do and, more importantly, what not to do can have a big impact on your ability to get compensation.
In this post, we will look at some common mistakes people make after getting injured on the job and how these missteps can negatively impact workers’ compensation claims and settlement amounts.
#1: Not Reporting the Workplace Accident Right Away
The biggest mistake people often make in workplace injury cases is not immediately notifying their employer about the accident and their possible injury. Under Maryland law, employees are required to notify the employer within 10 DAYS of a workplace injury. Md. Code. Ann., Lab. & Employ. § 9-704. There are exceptions to this 10-day notice requirement, but you can risk losing your right to a workman’s comp claim if you don’t comply.
If you are involved in a workplace accident, you should always immediately report the accident to your supervisor. Even if you are not physically injured in the accident, you should still report it. In many cases, the symptoms of workplace injuries are not immediately apparent. You might feel fine at first, but wake up a few days later with severe back pain.
#2: Not Disclosing Prior Workplace Injuries
Another common mistake people make in workers’ compensation cases is failing to disclose the fact that they have had prior work-related injuries. If you were ever injured on the job in the past or were involved in a workplace accident, you need to disclose that fact. Failure to report prior incidents can be considered fraudulent and result in your current workers’ comp claim getting thrown out.
When you pursue a workers’ compensation claim, at some point you will be asked if you have had any prior work-related accidents or if you have ever previously been hurt on the job. This question might come up in medical history forms when you get evaluated for the treatment of your current injury. The case manager or claim adjuster in your current claim will also probably ask you about prior injuries. Full and honest disclosure is critical here. You might think disclosing your prior incident will hurt your claim, but failing to disclose it will be much, much worse.
#3: Not Seeking Treatment for ALL Your Injuries
Another common mistake people make after workplace accidents, is not seeking treatment for ALL of their injuries. For example, let’s say you fall at work and suffer a herniated disc in your back. You’re knee also hurts, but you are so focused on your back injury that you don’t even bother telling the doctor about your knee. Weeks down the road your back is getting better, but your knee still hurts and you eventually find out that you tore your ACL ligament.
In this scenario, failing to disclose the knee injury upfront will make it very difficult to get fair compensation. Your workers’ compensation claim for the back injury might already be settled by the time you learn about your torn knee ligament. Even if your workers’ comp claim is still pending, trying to add a major knee injury weeks or months into the claim is not going to play well. The insurance company is going to dispute whether the knee injury was related to the work accident. They might even accuse you of fraud. The easiest way to avoid this is to disclose ALL injuries or pains from the very start.
#4: Not Going Back to Work Soon Enough
Not going back to work right away after your injuries heal is one of the most common mistakes people make in workers comp cases. When you are injured on the job, you are entitled to stay home from work until you are physically able to work again. If you are physically unable to do the same job you did before, your employer might offer you a different job that is less physically demanding.
Even if this “alternative job” pays less money, you are obligated to accept. If you refuse to come back to work and perform a job that you are physically able to perform, you risk losing your workers’ comp benefits. Your employer may also have the right to terminate you for refusing to work.
#5: Representing Yourself
Trying to handle your own workers’ compensation claim without a lawyer is another major mistake people make in these situations. No matter how smart and capable you are, you probably have no experience with the inner workings of a worker’s compensation claim. Representing yourself will put you at a significant disadvantage even if you know the comp rates. The insurance company will have lawyers and/or claims adjusters who do handle workers comp claims every day and they will use this to their advantage.