In 2022, 2.8 million people experienced a nonfatal workplace injury or illness in the United States. Workers’ compensation insurance provides financial protection for the lost wages, medical expenses, and permanent or temporary disability that workplace injuries cause.
However, workers’ compensation claims can be complex. Employers and insurance companies may deny valid claims or attempt to reduce costs by taking advantage of any mistakes injured workers make during the claims process. To reduce your chance of jeopardizing your claim, learn what not to do while on workers’ comp.
What Not To Do While on Workers’ Comp
Insurance companies want to pay as little as possible on workers’ compensation claims. Avoid these six common mistakes that could result in reduced benefits or a lower settlement.
1. Don’t Try To Tough It Out
Do you hate admitting when you are sick or in pain? Are you afraid you could lose your job or get passed over for a promotion if you miss too much work? These are common concerns injured workers experience, but trying to tough out a workplace injury is not a good idea.
You have a right to receive immediate medical treatment at no cost to you while on workers’ comp. In Washington, D.C., and Maryland, you can also choose any doctor you want to provide that medical care.
In Virginia, your employer may require you to choose from an approved list of doctors, but it must still cover the cost of treatment. Proper medical care is important for your recovery and your claim.
Without immediate medical attention, your injuries could get worse, and if you didn’t get timely medical care, the insurance company could deny or reduce the value of your claim. Waiting too long after your injury to get treatment can also make it difficult to prove that your injury or illness is work-related.
2. Don’t Ignore Medical Advice
Your doctor’s treatment plan is the basis for your workers’ compensation claim. If you don’t follow your treatment plan, the insurance company may deny benefits because you aren’t doing everything you can to recover and get back to work.
Attend all scheduled appointments and avoid performing any restricted activities until your doctor says it is OK to do so. If you must miss an appointment, reschedule it as soon as you can.
If you have a problem with your doctor or treatment plan, you may be able to change doctors. However, you must get approval from the insurance company or the workers’ compensation board first.
3. Don’t Return To Work Too Soon
Many people on workers’ comp face pressure from employers and insurance companies to return to work as soon as possible. However, returning to work too soon could delay your recovery and ability to return to full duty.
If your doctor says you can return for light duty only, you should not do any work that requires you to perform actions your doctor hasn’t cleared you for. Tell your doctor if you experience a worsening of symptoms after returning to work.
If your employer can’t accommodate your restrictions, you may need to search for work you can do while on workers’ comp. Remember, if you engage in any other work, including self-employment, you must report your earnings to your employer and the insurance company. Failing to do so could result in financial penalties or criminal charges.
4. Don’t Keep Your Injury a Secret From Your Boss
Employees are sometimes reluctant to tell their boss about a workplace injury because they fear they will get in trouble for violating rules or face workplace retaliation for filing a claim. However, workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance. This means that even if you caused your injury by violating safety procedures, you can still collect compensation and your employer cannot legally retaliate against you for it.
Employees in D.C. have 30 days from the date of the injury or the date they discover the injury is work-related to report the injury or illness to the Office of Workers’ Compensation. They must also promptly tell their employer.
In Maryland, the reporting period is 10 days, and Virginia gives employees 60 days to file a claim. That being said, it’s always best to report any workplace injury or illness as soon as possible. The longer you wait, the more difficult it becomes to prove your illness or injury is work-related, and if you miss a deadline, the insurance company may deny your claim.
5. Don’t Talk About Your Workers’ Comp Case
If a dispute arises while you are on workers’ comp, the insurance company can use anything you say about your case against you. For this reason, it’s a good idea to speak to a workers’ compensation attorney before you talk to anyone at the insurance company or provide any kind of recorded statement.
Avoid discussing your case with friends and family as much as possible and don’t talk about it on social media at all. Be cautious about posting photos or descriptions of activities that the insurance company could use to question whether you are as sick or injured as you claim.
6. Don’t Sign Documents Without Consulting an Attorney
Insurance companies commonly offer injured workers a settlement to resolve their workers’ compensation claims. Because insurance companies deal with workers’ compensation claims every day, they have a better idea than most injured workers what the value of a claim is and may try to take advantage of your lack of experience.
If you accept a settlement that is too low, you may have uncompensated expenses. A workers’ compensation attorney can review your settlement offer to determine if it covers the full value of your claim.
Get Help With Your Workers’ Comp Claim
While it’s important to know what not to do while on workers’ comp, doing everything right isn’t a guarantee that you will receive the compensation the insurance company owes. The team at Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis, LLP, will fight for your legal rights and work hard to ensure your medical bills, lost wages, and other expenses don’t come out of your pocket.
Whether you have a pending case in the Washington, D.C., area or the insurance company denied your claim, we want to help. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.