Injured at work? Take immediate action to avoid costly mistakes that can prevent you from maximizing your workers’ compensation claim.
Once a person is injured on the job, all of life’s stresses ramp WAY up—health, finances, employment, family communications, etc. To have a successful workers’ compensation claim in Alabama, injured workers need to be informed and knowledgeable about the workers’ comp process so they can avoid common pitfalls and ensure maximum compensation.
The world of accessing workers’ compensation benefits is not as straightforward as one would hope. There are deadlines, rules and procedures that must be followed to have a successful claim.
Below are our top dos and don’ts when filing for workers’ compensation benefits in Alabama.
1. DO act quickly
Reporting your accident and injury to your employer in a timely manner is of the utmost importance. One of the most common mistakes during the process of a workers’ compensation claim is failing to report your accident or injury on time.
In the state of Alabama, the injured worker is required to orally report the accident to their employer within 5 days of the injury—or in writing within 90 days of the accident.
Generally, an employer is required to submit the First Report of Injury within 15 days after the notice of the occurrence of the injury to the State of Alabama. Failing to report your accident and injury to your employer within the allotted time could result in losing your benefits eligibility.
2. DON’T leave out or add details
While not every detail might help your case, leaving out or adding certain details when reporting to your employer could hurt you. It’s crucial to be honest about everything you remember when reporting your case.
Be truthful and fully disclose the events that led up to the accident and the extent of your injuries immediately following. By completely disclosing an accurate account of the incident, you’ll make your claims process easier because your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company will not be able to deny your claim based on inconsistent facts if further investigation is conducted regarding the accident.
The most efficient way to safeguard this disclosure of the accident is to submit the incident report in writing to your immediate supervisor and employer.
When relaying your case to insurance companies, lawyers or doctors, being able to tell a detailed and accurate story of the event will help your claim progress efficiently. Be consistent about what you tell them. Although rare, failing to tell an accurate and honest story could result in workers’ compensation fraud.
On the other hand, reporting the accident to your employer is not the time to downplay your injuries. If you’re not fully honest with your employer or your lawyer, the process of your workers’ compensation claim becomes much harder and might even take away potential benefits.
DO seek treatment from approved healthcare providers
Workers’ compensation was created to treat injuries incurred while on the job. While this is important for your own recovery, it’s also critical to the success of your claim. If you don’t seek treatment from a doctor, you are dismissing your own claim.
Further, while it’s acceptable to see your own doctor, it’s imperative to see a healthcare provider approved by your employer. It is the report of this employer-approved healthcare provider that will be used to support your claim for compensation. So always treat with a doctor approved by your employer or the workers’ compensation carrier to ensure your treatment is covered under workers’ comp.
3. DO follow all medical treatment
Once you’re prescribed medical treatment by your doctor, you need to follow their instructions. This includes attending all medical and therapy appointments and adhering to the recovery plan created for your injury.
Be on time and attend all appointments. Your doctor’s reports are included as supplemental records in your workers’ compensation claim. If you miss these appointments, the insurance company or your employer will typically attempt to cut off all benefits for failure to comply with medical care. If you need to reschedule, notify the medical office as soon as practical.
Following your doctor’s prescribed care is usually the best course of action; however, in some circumstances, you do have the right to a second opinion, paid for by the insurance carrier. Every situation is different. Consult with a skilled work injury lawyer with experience in these matters to guide your decision-making.
4. DON’T take part in work outside of your restrictions
Typically, employers will have a return-to-work program or a modified duty program to help ease the stress of coming back to work. These programs assist the employee with returning to the workplace even if they cannot handle the job duties of their pre-injury job.
If your doctor issues a return to work order and you participate in one such program, make sure it falls within the guidelines ordered by your workers’ comp-approved physician. Although these programs can be beneficial, working outside of the scope of the program could cause you physical harm and suspend any progress you’ve made in your recovery.
5. DO hire a lawyer who’s experienced in worker injury matters
Throughout this process, it’s essential to have a good lawyer with experience and expertise in Alabama workers’ compensation law. You should avoid an attorney who doesn’t specialize in workers’ comp claims. While you can educate yourself on critical points of the process, a knowledgeable lawyer will help your claim substantially.
Do your research online, ask around and interview the lawyers you think would be a good fit for your case. The sooner you hire the right lawyer, the better they’ll be able to protect your legal rights.
It’s also important to consider the timing in which you contact a lawyer. Seeking the advice of legal counsel soon after your injury and before filing a claim could mean the difference between having your claim approved and having to appeal a denial of your claim.
Workers’ compensation can seem murky ground to tread for an employee that has never been injured on the job and is only now beginning to make his way through the maze of requirements to have a successful claim.
A workers’ compensation attorney is well-practiced in the art of guiding claims through the nuances required to get your benefits. An attorney can offer advice on what to say to insurance investigators who want to reduce the benefits your employer’s insurance policy will have to pay you.
An attorney will also know how to obtain the most favorable outcome for your specific case, which may include a claim for compensation against a third party as well. The earlier you get an attorney involved, the earlier you’ll be able to have the help and advice of someone that knows the law and is looking out for your best interest.
Contact an Alabama workers’ compensation attorney
If you’re hurt on the job due to unsafe working conditions, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation or other benefits. As we have since 1967, Nomberg Law Firm will continue to protect the legal rights of our clients—those who are hurt on the job while working for Alabama employers.
Bernard D. Nomberg has been a lawyer for more than 25 years, and he has earned an AV rating from Martindale-Hubbell’s peer-review rating. In 2021, Bernard was named a Super Lawyer for the 9th year in a row.
If you were injured on the job and want to learn your rights in Alabama, consider contacting our firm for your free consultation.