When you get hurt on the job, you’ve got important benefits, but you’ve got to protect your rights to them. The first most important thing for you to do is notify your employer. The second most important thing to do is make sure forms are filed to preserve your rights. If they aren’t filed by the deadline, you could lose your benefits.
Here’s an introduction to the first forms filed to preserve your rights in most workers’ comp cases.
The First Report of Injury: Form 12
Workers’ comp loves forms. One of the first forms used to notify the Workers Compensation Commission about your case is called a First Report of Injury. Like all workers’ comp forms, it has a number, which is what it’s often referred to in comp lingo: Form 12.
Form 12 gives basic, but important, information about your case, including:
- Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company that is providing benefits.
- Information about you, including your job and how much you earn.
- A brief description of how the injury occurred.
Usually, the insurance company files this information with the Commission.
The Most Important Form Protecting Your Rights: Form 50
If you don’t get anything else out of this article, remember this: if you don’t file this in time, and if it doesn’t contain the right information stated the right way, you can lose your benefits.
The safest way to protect your rights using a Form 50 is having it filled out by someone who does it for a living: an experienced workers’ comp lawyer. You’ve got a lot at stake, and a lot can go wrong with an improperly completed form, like:
- If it’s done wrong, it can be used against you to deny you benefits, including medical treatment. For example, if you don’t list all of the body parts AFFECTED by your injury, you could be denied medical treatment for them. There’s an art to that.
- The form asks for a brief description of the injury. Doing this the wrong way could be used against you to question if you’re even believable. That could happen if you describe an injury that doesn’t seem to tie in the body parts you claim got hurt.
- You’ve got to know exactly what benefits you’re requesting. If you leave one out, you could be prevented from getting it.
- Do you need a hearing? If so, that’s when you really need an experienced workers' compensation attorney.
Then there’s what might be the trickiest part: officially mailing the insurance company the form—in legal terms, this is called “service.” This can be really tricky, and here’s a hint: the official address usually isn’t the claims rep or adjuster’s address.
In response, the insurance company, usually through its attorney, files a Form 51. The Form 51 gives basic reasons why they’d deny your claim and other defenses. If they’ve got a lawyer, remember there are now two professionals lined up against you: the adjuster and the attorney. And their primary goal is minimizing your claim, giving as few benefits as possible, no matter how bad you are hurt.
You Don’t Have to Be an Island
Legal professionals like me really do want to protect your rights, and we are invested in your best interests in your case. Of all the things folks do to hurt their cases by going it alone, the worst is waiting too long to get guidance from a work injury attorney like me. There's many good reasons to do that. It’s bad enough you may now be opposed by your own employer’s insurance company and their attorney. Don’t make it worse by being your own enemy.