You’re working away on the production line at your job when suddenly you feel a sharp zing of pain in your shoulder. You wince for a moment, and the pain recedes to a dull, throbbing ache. Will you need to file a compensation claim even if you are able to make it through the rest of the day?
That’s the problem—you don’t know. Now’s a good time to remember an old saying: “Better safe than sorry.”
In our years representing workers hurt on the job, we see the same problems for claimants caused by their not doing some basic things to protect their rights. The claimants whose cases are the hardest are the ones who try to fight through immense pain, who underestimate the severity of their injury, or who are afraid to file a claim.
The truth is, you may not need a lot of medical care or have a claim that’ll cost your employer a lot of money. But by not protecting yourself immediately, you risk a denied claim or the nightmare of convincing the insurance company you got hurt at work so it will give you the medical care and disability income you desperately need.
Here are five easy ways to protect your rights to workers’ compensation, even if you don’t know whether you will actually need it:
- Report the injury to your supervisor immediately. There is a legal deadline that will end your right to compensation if you don’t report it soon enough. Plus, employers are required to document workplace injury reports, which helps protect your right to a claim.
- Insist your employer sends you to the doctor right away. That pain in your shoulder you think you can work through may be a warning you are about to blow your shoulder out (or it could signal something even worse). Remember, the most important medical care is preventive. A few minutes with the doctor could save you a painful operation, several months away from work, and permanent disability. And sometimes the worst injuries take a little while before you realize how bad they are. Going to the doctor now could actually help your employer; the quicker you get checked out and fixed up, the less you could cost your employer in lost production and maybe even medical bills and disability income paid when you can’t work.
- Go to the doctor even if you don’t want to or don’t think you need it. You are not a medical professional. Let health care experts investigate, diagnose, and make the medical decisions for you. Skipping doctor appointments is a sure way to ruin your claim. No insurance company will believe you’re hurt when you don’t go for treatment.
- Be honest with the doctor about how you got hurt and your symptoms. Doctors often put a description of how the injury occurred in their records, which is additional documentation that you got hurt at work. The doctor knows nothing about you or your injury. Be specific about what you were doing when you got hurt, where it hurt, and what it felt like. Do not minimize your pain—if you are being honest about your symptoms, you are not whining. You are reporting symptoms so they can be treated.
- Follow the doctor’s advice, even if you don’t want to. No one wants to help anyone who won’t help themselves, and that especially includes insurance adjusters and commissioners who see a claimant refusing to follow doctor’s orders.
Telling your employer you got hurt at work is not comfortable or easy. But employers have a legal obligation to help their employees who get hurt at work. If you can’t work because your injury is severe, you are foolish not to let your employer take care of you the way they should.
If you don’t want to confront your employer about a claim or are hurt too bad to deal with it, you don’t even have to get up from where you are right now. Simply start a live chat with us or shoot us an email. You can even reach out to us the old-fashioned way—by phone at 864.582.0416 or toll-free at 877.230.1841—to schedule a free meeting- which we bet will be more pleasant than you might expect. Let’s see if we can help you protect your unique rights as a worker in South Carolina.