This month I thought I would address some common misleading information individuals hear about their rights if they are injured on the job. I receive questions all the time on this subject and it is clear that the information or as I would say the misinformation about your rights is most likely going to be coming from your employer, their insurance company or their selected doctor.
I want to start with the idea that if you are going to pursue a workers compensation claim, you are in fact bringing a lawsuit against your employer. This is what many employers want you to think as it is an attempt to guilt you into waiving your rights under the law. This is false! Workers’ compensation allows specific benefits under the law. It is not a lawsuit and you are not trying to go after anything more from the employer. You are simply complying with the law as to how a work injury must be treated. Think about it as the same as the rights under your Union contract. If you are entitled to benefits, you simply want those bargained for benefits. Nothing more or less. The failure to follow the rules for a work related injury will only result in a waiver of your benefits. This is what all companies would prefer. The employer and its workers compensation insurance company often make you fight to get all your benefits. You get wrong information on who is in charge or what information is needed or even how you get sent to a doctor. This run around is designed to make you again give up your rights and simply pay for everything on your own.
You will often be told that all your rights are set by law and that all you have to do is trust the insurance company to take care of everything. It amazes me that people really think that an insurance company is going to simply pay benefits that they do have to give you out of the goodness of their hearts. This is false! The insurance company may pay for medical and benefits while you are off work but do not have to pay or even advise you of any additional benefits. Your failure to file the appropriate papers, which the employer will never file, can result in you receiving no additional benefits. This includes any disability payments or future medical care. Typically assessment of disability is assigned by a doctor. This can, if the employer wants to even do anything provide the basis for additional benefits. However, the doctor assigning the disability is one picked by the employer, paid by the employer and working for the employer’s best interest. They are not on your side. Think about this issue, do you think a doctor that provided you medical services is ever going to say they did not do a great job and you’re good to go? No, they are not going to help you out, you are not paying them! If you decide to get all your benefits, you have a right to file a formal claim with the division of workers compensation. This is usually done with the help of an attorney. This allows you to challenge the disability assessment of the employer’s doctor and in addition make sure that issues like future medical care are addressed. In addition, this will put the claim at a different level with access to the Judges if needed. This is what I recommend if you have a serious enough injury. You want to make sure all your rights are protected.
The other person that might try and provide you with thoughts on what you might need to do if you are injured is the actual doctor that is treating you. I hear that some doctors try and influence people to simply trust them and the system and not get any legal help. The doctors will tell you they are on your side and that you simply do not want to delay anything or cause a problem by trying to get help. This is of course false information. Why would a doctor even tell you anything about your rights? Well, my experience is that they are trying to help out the insurance company by trying to get the individual to waive additional rights. The doctor is selected and paid by the employer. If they can get people to waive their rights, they might get more cases sent to them. It is a business decision to benefit them and the employer. It is not in any way to help you.
My point in this article is simply to encourage you to get all the information about your rights so that you can decide what is best in your case. Do not simply listen to your employer, the insurance company, the doctor or even co-workers about how they can help you understand the system. Every claim is different and there is no set way that they all proceed or resolve. Information is king when it comes to making sure that you understand all your benefits and what you need to do to protect yourself. If you are entitled to benefits, you should get all of the benefits. Help is available to you on these issues and you should not be afraid to get true information on your rights and protect yourself.
Michael C. Goldberg
Attorney at Law