After an injury occurs at work, there are many things the injured worker must do. He or she must tell the employer, see a doctor, and complete a number of other steps to receive workers’ compensation benefits in Colorado. However, in addition to ensuring the worker follows through with these steps, there are a number of things the injured worker should not do. Just like any other formal procedure, there are several mistakes often made when injured workers file workers’ compensation claims. The five most common mistakes are:
Failing to Document the Injury
It is extremely important that all workers in Colorado document every injury they sustain at work, even when those injuries seem minor. A tiny twinge in the lower back when moving a crate could indicate a more serious problem, and being exposed to hazardous material could lead to severe health problems that are not apparent right away. When these even seemingly minor injuries occur at work, employees must document them, along with telling their employers and doctors. If they do not, it often becomes difficult to prove that the injury occurred at work and subsequently, harder to obtain workers’ compensation benefits.
It is not uncommon for an injured worker do something, then hope to “shake it off” or give it the weekend to get better. While this may seem reasonable it can lead to the insurance carrier denying the claim and causing a lot of problems. This is particularly true if there is a weekend or scheduled days offs in between because the adjuster will assume that you may have hurt it at home or while engaging in your own recreational activities. The best way to avoid this is to report any injury, get it looked at, if necessary, and make sure that you have some proof that you reported it. The visit to the clinic will be sufficient documentation as long as you describe the work event. If you are not going to go to the clinic, fill out a work injury report (that you copy or take a picture of with your cell phone), or a text to a supervisor gives you something to show that told them that you were injury and how it happened.
Failing to Document the Circumstances and Witnesses Present at the Time of the Injury
Insurance companies do not want to pay out on workers’ compensation claims. They will use any and all tactics available to them to deny the claim. Generally, when the claim is sent to the adjuster they do some investigation to determine if they are going to admit liability for the claim. The fact that they are paying for treatment at the clinic is not an admission that they are accepting liability. For this reason, the injured worker needs to fill out a report right away and get the names and phone numbers of witnesses if possible. One person saying he or she was injured on the job is easy enough for the insurance company to challenge. When they are faced with three eyewitness accounts in addition to that of the injured worker, however, refuting these claims becomes much more difficult.
Failing to Copy and Retain Documents
While it does not happen often, there have been cases in which both the insurance company and the employer lose documents pertaining to the injury. Sometimes this happens purely by accident, although it is sometimes intentional. Injured workers should assume this is going to happen and ensure they receive copies of any documentation and keep those copies in a safe place. If possible, take a picture with your phone of an important document like an accident report and keep that. This way, if either the insurance company or the employer comes back to the employee saying they do not have any proof of the injury, the employee still will.
Believing the Claim is Covered by Health Insurance
When injured workers get hurt on the job, they often think their health insurance will pay for it. More often than not, this is a mistake. Health insurance companies are still insurance companies and do not want to pay out on claims any more than workers’ compensation insurance companies do. As soon as they hear the injury occurred at work, they will often send the claim back to the worker telling them they must go through workers’ compensation to receive benefits. If the injured worker has not taken the necessary steps to do so and the injury happened a while ago, the worker could end up paying for all related expenses out of his or her own pocket. It is important to report the claim and allow the company to send you an authorized treating doctor so that you do not incur these expenses. Often employers are the ones telling employees to go to their doctor and use health insurance because they do not want to report the claim to their insurance company. Do not allow them to do this.
Going it Alone
Workers’ compensation may seem like a simple process to an injured worker, but it is not. Colorado provides many helpful links and tips for those filing for workers’ compensation and too often, injured workers believe this is enough. However, even the Colorado Employee’s Guide to Workers’ Compensation states that it is not a substitute for professional legal advice. It may not seem obvious at the time, but anyone injured at work needs an experienced attorney who will represent him or her throughout their entire claim.
You Need an Experienced Colorado Workers’ Comp Lawyer When Injured at Work
Applying for workers’ compensation entails so much more than simply telling an employer and filling out a claim. There are very specific steps to take, including which doctor to see, and not all claims are approved. A workers’ compensation attorney in Colorado can increase an injured worker’s chance at receiving benefits, and make the entire process much easier.
If you have been injured at work in Colorado, call Burg, Simpson, Eldredge, Hersh & Jardine, P.C. at (303) 792-5595. We will walk you through the claims process and ensure no mistakes are made to give you the best chance at receiving the benefits you need. Call today for your free case evaluation.