Because of the uncertain state of our economy, some workers are worried about reporting their workplace injuries. Several times this year, I have had the experience of speaking with workers who have been injured at work, but decided not to retain a workers compensation attorney or even report their injuries to their employers. Understandably, a person hurt at work could be worried that they are jeopardizing their job or risking the wrath of their employer by reporting an injury.
The reality is you should not be afraid to file a claim if you are hurt at work. Under Florida law, it is illegal for an employer to fire or punish you for having a valid worker’s compensation claim. An employer who fires you for filing a claim, or in any way punishes you, could be opening the door for a wrongful termination or a retaliation suit. Besides, filing a claim with a workers compensation carrier, and hiring an attorney to seek those benefits, is not the same thing as filing a law suit against your employer. When you report an injury and file a workers compensation claim, you are simply requesting benefits you are already owed from an insurance company.
Another point to keep in mind is that you never really know how an injury could progress. What started out today as slight back pain or a simple bump to the head could develop into a serious and more painful condition in a short period of time. Florida’s workers compensation law only gives you 30 days from the date of your accident or injury to report it to your employer. Unfortunately, workers who wait to report their accidents or injuries until their condition worsens risk their claims being denied as untimely reported. If you timely report your accident or injury to your employer but your employer fails to provide you with immediate medical care, it is very important that you speak with a workers compensation attorney as soon as possible. Your attorney will be able to notify the workers compensation insurance carrier of your injury and file a claim directly.
Some workers who are worried about their jobs may simply decide to use their own private health insurance to seek medical care, instead of reporting the injury with their employer and getting medical care through the worker’s compensation system. In my experience, this is almost always a mistake. If you report a valid workers compensation injury, the insurance carrier has to pay 100% of all authorized and required medical care. This includes your medications, consultations, treatment, therapy and even the mileage to attend medical appointments.
I you choose to use your own personal health insurance, there will likely be deductibles and co-pays which you will be required to pay out of your family’s pocket. If your injury progresses to the point that you require continued medical care, or even a surgery, then using your own health insurance could prove to be very expensive. Also, if you end up having to miss time from work because of your injuries, you would not have the option of being paid wage loss benefits from your personal health insurance provider. However, if you have a workers compensation claim and are taken out of work by your authorized doctor, the insurance carrier would be responsible for payment of wage loss benefits. Clearly, employees who choose not to report an injury and instead use their health insurance benefits could end up with costly medical bills and unpaid missed time from work.
Even though it is understandable to be worried about reporting a work place injury, it is important to have the right priorities in mind. In order to protect yourself, your future earning potential and your family, you should notify your employer immediately if you are hurt at work. And if you need the services of an experienced workers compensation attorney, or have any questions about your claim, please call us for a free consultation. We’re here to help.