By Zbigniew Bednarz–
Despite what the media might tell you, no one plans on getting hurt on the job. Unfortunately, for hard-working people who do a physical job, a work place injury may be inevitable. When an injury occurs, the last thing an injured worker is thinking about is their workers’ compensation claim. However, a workers’ compensation claim is the first thing your employer’s insurance carrier is thinking about.
There are generally two types of workers’ compensation claims: accepted claims and disputed claims. An accepted claim is the type where the insurance carrier has agreed that it is responsible for the injured person’s benefits. A disputed claim is the type where the insurance carrier has not agreed that they are responsible. Often times, the insurance carrier decides whether the claim will be disputed or accepted within the first few days of the claim being reported. As a result, what an injured worker does in the first few days after an injury may mean the difference between the injured worker receiving those benefits right away, or the injured worker waiting months, sometimes years, before seeing a dime. When you are injured and not collecting a paycheck nor getting the treatment you need, weeks can feel like an eternity, let alone months or years.
What can you do to help ensure your claim is accepted instead of disputed? A good way to protect yourself is to follow this simple three-step process: 1) tell your boss, 2) tell your doctor, and 3) tell your lawyer.
Tell your boss:
Often times when an injury occurs, the injured worker is hesitant to report the injury to their boss. They are either afraid that their boss will become upset, or they simply do not want to make a fuss. Perhaps they assume that the injury is not serious, and after they get home that evening, they’ll take a few ibuprofens, rest up, and go to sleep thinking everything will be fine in the morning. But then that person wakes up the next morning and they can’t get out of bed.
If you wait until the next day to tell your boss, after you hobble into work doubled over in pain, your boss (much less their workers’ compensation insurance carrier) is not going to believe you got hurt on the job yesterday. After all, why wouldn’t you have told him yesterday? When that insurance company calls your boss to take a statement after the claim is reported, they are going to have a reason to dispute your claim. However, if you report your injury to your boss, go home, take those ibuprofens, and everything really is fine in the morning, then no harm done. Your boss probably already forgot that you reported anything at all.
Tell your doctor:
The next step you should take is make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible. When you see that doctor, make sure that you tell him what happened at work and every part of your body that was affected by the injury. The earliest medical records often become critical pieces of evidence when your attorney is trying to prove that you were injured at work.
The second reason to see a doctor as soon as possible, is the common belief in the workers’ compensation world that people who are healthy, don’t go to the doctor, and people who are injured, do go to the doctor. Now, we all know that there are a million reasons people don’t go to the doctor: they can’t take time off work, the kids need to be picked up from school, they don’t have insurance, and so on. However, the workers’ compensation insurance adjusters don’t care about any of that. They assume that if someone doesn’t see a doctor, that person must be fine.
Tell your lawyer:
Finally, you should understand that these insurance companies likely have entire buildings full of lawyers and other professionals advising them on what they should or shouldn’t do. As a result, you should have at least one attorney of your own giving you the same kind of advice. No one who is having a good day needs to call a lawyer, and if you are unlucky enough to have a work accident, you are not having a good day. The sooner you can get the legal advice that you need, the quicker you can protect yourself from an insurance company taking advantage of you when you are most vulnerable. The first consultation with our office is always free, and we are happy to give you advice on what to do next, whether you decide to hire our office or not. We hope that you never have one of these “bad days,” but if you do, we are here to see you through.
To learn more, visit horwitzlaw.com.
Zbigniew “Zibi” Bednarz is an associate attorney with the firm of Horwitz, Horwitz & Associates, Ltd., with offices in Chicago and Joliet. Since 2013, Mr. Bednarz has argued before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, the Circuit Courts on Administrative Review and the Illinois Appellate Court. Fluent in both Spanish and Polish, Mr. Bednarz frequently speaks on workers’ compensation issues to labor organizations. Mr. Bednarz can be reached by phone at 312-372-8822.