Most people who get injured at work have a process that goes like this:
1. Have an injury on the job.
2. Report it to your boss who files a claim with their work comp insurance.
3. Get medical care paid for by the work comp insurance.
And the case goes on from there based on what the injury is and how it happened. Some people we talk to have an injury at work and report it to their boss, but it stops there. Sometimes the boss guilts them into not making a formal claim. Other times people for various reasons choose to use their own insurance. The question we get from workers who do this is, is it too late to do anything?
The answer depends on when you were hurt and other things. For example, we recently got a call from a worker who was injured last spring. It was a clear-cut injury where he was hit by a forklift. His boss saw it and he filled out an accident report. Because he’s downstate at a plant where the employer makes you feel like shit if you pursue work comp, he had everything paid for by his group insurance. Now around a year later he has a torn labrum and can no longer do the job he did when he got injured. He wanted to know if it was too late or not to pursue work comp.
He has three things going for him that will make it likely that he can get help from a lawyer. First off, he’s within the three-year time limit for filing a case (note that there are some exceptions that can extend this time limit). Second, he not only reported the accident to his employer, but he documented it. There will be no fighting this case for a failure to notify the employer within 45 days of the accident that occurred.
The third thing in his favor is that when he went to his doctor, he was honest and told him that he hurt himself on the job and gave a description that matches the accident report. Some people make a huge mistake and lie to their doctors because their boss wants them to or because they think it will help them get their group insurance to pay for it. This creates a great defense for the work comp insurance company. It can be overcome, but it can also kill the case potentially.
So for this worker, it’s not too late. He did make some mistakes and is at risk of his group insurance going after him for reimbursement of bills that they shouldn’t have paid, but the work comp case can probably sort it out. He also missed out on some payments for being off work, but the good news is that retroactively we can likely obtain those benefits for him.
Others that we talk to don’t pursue work comp at first because they don’t think they are badly injured or “aren’t the suing type.” For those that don’t think they are badly injured, that doesn’t change what the first three steps should be. If you are hurt and report it, if it leads to medical treatment, work comp should pay for it. You shouldn’t pay anything out of pocket even if the injury is minor. And then if it progresses into something bigger, you already have a case going.
As for the not suing type people, there are two things to know. Despite perceptions, very few people like to sue a lot and most lawyers I know (and certainly the ones I work with on cases) avoid people who seem to make a career out of bringing cases. Second, workers compensation claims, even when you have a lawyer, are not lawsuits. They are claims for benefits that you are entitled to under the law. Just like applying for social security disability or health insurance payments isn’t a lawsuit, neither is filing for workers compensation benefits.
My advice to people who are hurt at work and not sure what they want to do is just to follow the first three steps from the beginning of this post. If you report the claim and are honest with your doctor, you will best protect yourself. And if you delayed in pursuing a case, but now want to know your options or if it’s too late, the best thing you can do is talk to a lawyer. If you want to speak with an attorney for free and in confidence, you can contact us any time at 888-705-1766. We help with work injuries everywhere in Illinois.