Who Do I Notify First After a Workplace Accident?
There are over 30,000 people injured at work every year in Colorado. Most workers have little to no experience with the workers’ compensation system before their injury occurs. Many think the employer will know what to do, and insurance will properly guide them through the system. In my experience, the biggest mistakes that complicate otherwise straightforward claims for workers’ compensation benefits are (1) delayed reporting of the incident; (2) not filing a claim for workers’ compensation benefits with Division of Workers’ Compensation, and; (3) not consulting an attorney after the injury is reported. No one plans for a work injury to happen, but when it does you need to be proactive in protecting your rights.
1. Notify Your Employer of The Injury
The first thing you need to do is notify your employer of the injury immediately after it happens. The law provides a 72-hour window from the time you are injured to notify your employer. You can still file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits even if you fail to notify your employer within 72 hours of the injury occurring, but the longer you wait the more you invite skepticism from the insurance company that is responsible for paying your benefits. Even if your injury occurs at the end of the day, on Friday just before you clock out for the week, or you think it is not a big deal and you can work through the pain, you need to inform your employer of your injury as soon as you possibly can. The faster you report the injury the more likely you are to receive timely benefits from the insurance provider.
2. File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
The second step you need to take is to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits with the Division of Worker’s Compensation. If a claim is not filed within two years of the date of your injury you may be prevented by law from pursuing your claim. This is true even if you are receiving medical care through the workers’ compensation system; paid for by the workers’ compensation insurer. The form is online at the Department of Labor and Employment website. It is easy to fill out and it will force the insurance carrier to either admit liability for your injury or provide you notice that the insurer is denying liability. Many of my clients seek my help 6-12 months after their injury occurred wanting to know why it has been such a hassle to get treatment timely approved or payment of their lost wages. Their main issues is, almost always, that a claim was never filed with the Division of Workers’ Compensation and the insurance carrier never admitted liability (i.e. accepted responsibility) for their work injury.
3. Contact an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Step three is seeking the representation of a workers’ compensation attorney. Your employer has attorneys. Your employer’s insurance carrier has a team of attorneys. Typically the only party without an attorney is the injured worker; which is exactly what the insurance carrier wants. The workers’ compensation system is designed in a way for you, the injured worker, to do it by yourself, but I do not recommend it. When my furnace goes out I call an expert in HVAC to fix it. When my car breaks-down I call a mechanic. When my knee pops I call a doctor. When you are injured at work you should seek the help of a workers’ compensation attorney to guide you through the process and fight for the benefits you deserve.
If you take these three steps your claim is much more likely to be a smooth process in which you get the benefits you are entitled to.
Contact The Sawaya Law Firm for help today!