1. Report your work-related injury immediately!
The most important advice that I can give an injured worker is to report the injury to his supervisor immediately and to make sure that the injury is documented by the employer. While the law only requires the injured worker to report the injury within 90 days of the occurrence, the practical effect is that most employers will deny the injured worker’s claim if the injury is not reported immediately.
Having represented only injured workers for more than 29 years, I can’t count the number of times that a potential client came to see me because his workers’ compensation claim had been denied by his employer solely due to the fact that he had waited a few days to report his work injury. The most common excuse given to me is this:
“I thought I had only strained my back and that it would get better in a couple of days so I did not tell anybody about my accident. It was only after it did not get better that I decided to say something about it to my boss.”
While the excuse may sound reasonable to the employee, it often gets him in trouble when he subsequently decides to report the injury.
How does it get the injured worker in trouble?
- First, the delay in reporting the accident gives the employer greater reason for questioning whether the worker truly got hurt at work. After the injury is reported, the employer will likely investigate the accident by questioning co-workers. If the worker did not say anything when he got hurt, there will not be any co-workers to confirm his injury claim. Even if the injured worker did say something to his co-workers when the injury occurred a few days earlier, they may, as a practical matter, be too afraid to speak up on his behalf to the employer for fear of job retaliation. It is an easy way out for the co-worker to simply say to the employer that “I don’t remember it.” I have even seen some co-workers try to gain favor in the eyes of the employer by saying that the injured worker told them that he had gotten hurt at home rather than at work. The bottom line is that a delay in reporting the accident by the injured worker gives the employer justification to question the injured worker’s credibility and to deny the claim.
- Second, some companies even have a policy that requires injured workers to report their injuries immediately to the company. Failure to report the work accident immediately is deemed to be a violation of company policy for which the injured worker may be terminated. Therefore, the worker who does not report his work accident immediately because he fears that he may get fired by his employer for getting hurt at work (which is against the law for the employer to do in South Carolina) actually gets fired for violating company policy when he reports the accident late.
In conclusion, it is imperative for the injured worker to report his accident at work immediately to his employer regardless of how insignificant he may initially think that his injury will be. Often the very severe pain from an injury such as a back strain may not arise until the following morning.
How many times have you gone out and done some strenuous work or exercise only to feel a little sore immediately after you finished, but then felt like you could not move the next morning when you woke up? Don’t take the chance. Report the injury immediately!
My next blog will be about the importance of the medical history that you give to the physician when you go for medical treatment after you have suffered a work related injury.
(Ernie Trammell is the author of this blog post and subsequent posts on Workers’ Compensation in South Carolina. Mr. Trammell has been a Workers’ Compensation attorney in South Carolina for 29 years, primarily in the Upstate encompassing the counties of Anderson, Abbeville, Greenville, Greenwood, Laurens, Oconee, Pickens, and Spartanburg.)