Dealing with the physical toll of a work injury is tough, but it is often the least stressful part of a workers’ compensation claim. Insurance companies, with an increasing focus on their bottom line, will search for mistakes you have made so that they can deny your claim or delay the payment of benefits you are owed. A delay in benefits when you are already under financial stress because of having been injured at work may cause you to settle your claim for less than what it is worth. Below is a list of ten steps you can take to strengthen your workers’ compensation case and increase its value:
1. Report the accident to your supervisor or the appropriate employer-designated representative as soon as it happens, even if you think it is a minor injury. A delay in reporting the injury will raise a red flag and may lead to the insurance company denying your claim so that it can investigate the accident – leading to a delay in payment of your benefits. Also, injuries to the back and knee that seem minor at first may fail to heal properly or involve underlying structural damage to your body that requires surgical intervention and pain management.
2. Contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer immediately and do not rely on your employer to give you accurate information regarding workers’ compensation laws. These laws require specific knowledge that many employers may not have, and your employer may unknowingly give you inaccurate information that can compromise your claim.
3. Recognize that the claims’ adjuster is not on your side and prepare before giving him or her a recorded statement. Claims’ adjusters are highly trained and the questions they ask during your recorded statement are usually designed to find a way to deny your claim.
4. Always tell the truth and do not exaggerate when describing your accident or your symptoms. Many workers’ compensation claims, especially those involving unwitnessed accidents, come down to credibility. Do not give the claims’ adjuster, your treating physician, or the Commission any reason to doubt your credibility.
5. Do not perform work in excess of the restrictions given by your doctor. Doing so is a good way to get injured. If you are injured as a result of working in excess of your doctor’s restrictions, then the insurance company may be able to deny further treatment and compensation benefits based on your failure to comply with the restrictions.
6. If you continue to receive work restrictions from your doctor, then make sure you have a follow-up appointment scheduled. Even if you find a job that is within your given restrictions, you should have a follow-up appointment scheduled in the event your condition worsens as a result of the light duty work.
7. Keep track of the number of miles you drive to authorized doctors’ appointments, as well as the money you spend on authorized prescriptions and co-pays for doctors’ visits. You are typically entitled to reimbursement for mileage, prescription expenses, and co-pays. These expenses can add up and every little bit helps when you are out of work or receiving reduced compensation.
8. If you are released to return to work with restrictions, then look for work and keep track of your efforts. Under most, if not all, workers’ compensation systems, you have a duty to market your residual work capacity. Failure to do so may lead to a denial of benefits.
9. Cooperate with your vocational rehabilitation counselor. Even if you do not think you will be hired to perform any of the jobs that your counselor asks you to apply to, apply anyway. Your continued cooperation is what is necessary to continue receiving benefits, not a successful job search.
10. Consider the potential cost of future medical treatment before agreeing to settle your claim. While it may be nice to receive a large lump sum check, that money can quickly disappear if you do not take steps to ensure that the settlement covers your future medical treatment or is at least large enough to cover future medical expenses. One back or knee surgery can cost many thousands of dollars.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you evaluate settlement offers and determine what type of settlement is best for your situation.
– Corey R. Pollard
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