Workers Compensation: When to File a Claim

According to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), almost 5,000 workers were killed in 2013. Construction sites are the most dangerous and contributed to 20 percent of fatalities. While most employees only suffer minor injuries or illnesses at work, they should still seek medical treatment and file a claim.

Acute Injuries or Illnesses
Unexpected accidents are the most common causes of workers’ compensation claims. For example, falls, slips and trips are the most common cause of workplace injuries. Being struck by or against an object is the second leading cause of injuries. Immediately after the accident, inform your employer and seek medical attention. When you are admitted to the medical facility, let them know that you were injured at work. The clinic or hospital will provide the state workers’ compensation form for you to fill out. The supervisor or a member of HR should also have an OSHA accident report for the injured employee to fill out.

Problems with Claims for Acute Injuries
Occasionally employers may pressure injured employees to refrain from filing a claim. This is because more claims mean higher workers’ compensation insurance rates for the company. Some companies will force injured employees to visit a preferred doctor, who may prematurely release the employee to work or downplay the injury. Some companies may even intimidate the employee with the threat of termination or interfere with the employees workers’ compensation claim. However, the law protects injured employees, who have the right to independently seek medical care and receive partial wage reimbursement for missed work.

Chronic Injuries or Illnesses
An injury or illness from chronic repetitive motion or long-term exposure to harmful elements is more troublesome. This is because the affected employee must prove that their injury or illness is directly linked to specific work related tasks. Still, the affected employee should immediately consult with a medical professional and file a claim. Sometimes employees will wish to avoid potential problems and will simply visit their primary care doctor through their own insurance. If so, it is a good idea for the employee to request the medical documentation from past visits concerning the injury or illness.

Problems with Claims for Chronic Injuries
When it comes to chronic illnesses or injuries, employers have more sway when it comes to getting a claim denied. This is because they can assert that there were contributing factors outside of work that contributed to the injury or illness. For example, if a production worker is required to move heavy materials all day and has developed serious back problems, the employer can simply assert that the worker could have been injured anytime outside of work lifting something heavy. Therefore, an OSHA inspector may be required to interview and assess the worker and workplace environment.

To sum up, any minor or major workplace related accident should be claimed through the state workers’ compensation program. While a slight injury may quickly heal, the injured employee can never know if there will be future complications. Learn more about employee’s rights to a safe workplace and protection from retaliation from OSHA’s website .