A work injury can happen to anyone, at any time. Injuries happen to people on the first day of a new job or after 20 years of injury-free employment. There just isn’t any rhyme or reason to when an injury occurs.
An injury can be as trivial as a sprained thumb or as serious as a broken bone or spinal cord injury. An injury may result in a few hours of discomfort or weeks to months of disability and lost time from work. A serious injury resulting in medical care and lost time from work is a “no-brainer” when it comes to whether or not it should be reported. In fact, in many cases, it doesn’t need to be reported because it was probably witnessed by coworkers or supervisors. Those types of claims get filed, benefits are paid and the injured worker is “in the system” by no choice of his own and without any real options.
But what about the less serious injury that allows you to keep working? How about an injury that requires a visit to the doctor but no lost time from work? Or, what about that minor twinge you felt in your low back a few weeks ago that you barely noticed but is now becoming a more serious problem?
These are the types of injuries that many people, for a variety of reasons, choose not to report to their employer. This topic comes to mind because I am convinced that the current scary economy is causing a lot of people to “work hurt”, without reporting work injuries. You know who you are – you injured your back, neck, shoulder, knee – whatever – a few weeks or months ago but you haven’t turned in an injury claim. You’re hoping that it will just get better, but it hasn’t. You’re afraid that if you turn in the claim you might lose your job. Or, if you go off work on comp, your job won’t be there for you after you’ve healed. So, you are one of many, many people who are “working hurt”.
What are the risks of not reporting a work injury?
Probably the biggest risk is that the injury may become more serious and it will then be too late to prove that it is a work comp claim. For example, if you don’t turn in an injury report and six months or a year later you need surgery and are facing a prolonged period of disability, you may have a very difficult time establishing a work comp claim. The insurance company will claim that you failed to give proper notice and that its now too late to file a claim.. The insurance company will also claim that you cannot prove your problems are related to an incident which occurred six months ago that you didn’t report. Another problem will arise if you weren’t telling your doctor the whole story and there is nothing in your medical records about the injury happening at work.
While you may have health insurance to cover most of the medical bills, you will not be able to receive wage loss benefits, vocational rehabilitation assistance or reimbursement of your medical mileage. These are all benefits which are provided under workers’ compensation.
What should you do if you get hurt at work and are afraid to report the injury?
My recommendation would be to contact an experienced work comp attorney. A little information goes a long way in the work comp system. Most attorneys will provide you with a free initial consultation concerning your claim. Once you understand your options, you can then make an informed decision about whether to report the injury or not. It sounds like a simple solution, and it is. Get some information about your potential claim and then make a decision.
For additional information on this topic, here are a couple of previous posts or other references:
As always, thank you for visiting our blog and please tell your friends that we are a source of good work comp information for workers injured in northern Minnesota and anywhere on the Iron Range.