When you’ve been injured on the job, it’s important to know what to do. In this article, Zack Hendon outlines what you should do if you’re injured while ate work.
I’ve been injured. Should I report my injury and if I don’t report my injury, what happens?
You do need to report your injury. A lot of workers are very conflicted about this because the employer talks out of two sides of their mouth. On the one hand, they tell you in training that you must report any injury right away. Well, I know that in a lot of these manufacturing jobs, people are getting injured to some extent every day. They’re getting cuts on their finger, there is some injuries that are small. All the workers know that if they actually did report every injury right away, they would be fired by the end of the day because the supervisor will be going, “You’re making a mockery out of this.”
Typically, what the employees will do is they will try and gauge for themselves, “Do I have a serious injury or not?” and they don’t want to, their job’s scared and they don’t want to report injuries that are not significant. On the other hand, what if this injury that you thought was just going to last a day, like you think it’s just a back strain and it turns out to be a herniated disc that you need a fusion surgery for. The worker is between a rock and a hard place but in general, you are supposed to report your injury right away. The employer wants to say right away. The law doesn’t really require you to report it right away. The law says that you have to give the employer thirty days’ notice in which to report the injury.
The problem with that is even if you have thirty days’ notice, if the employer really suspects that you were hurt over the weekend, like let’s say you wait two weeks to report it, many times they are thinking, “Well, you didn’t tell us right away because you really weren’t hurt there. You were hurt over the weekend.” Then, they’ll controvert the case based on that and then they’ll try to find evidence to support that which can delay your benefits and cause you problems. The best answer to that would be to go ahead and report your injury right away. If you don’t, it doesn’t kill your case. It might make your employer suspicious, but the law says you do have to report it within thirty days or your claim could be barred.
Reporting my injury doesn’t mean that I am filing a claim, does it?
No, not necessarily. If you do not need medical treatment or you’re just giving your employer a notice that something has happened so that they can do their do diligence to see if this was something that happened at work. You may still be working; you may not even request medical treatment, but it just gives the employer a notice.
The notice requirement is pretty loose in Georgia. You don’t necessarily have to say, “I was lifting that box over there and I felt a back strain when I lifted it.” It could be as simple as later on through the day, after unloading a truck, telling the employer, “Man, my back is killing me.” You don’t even have to say, “Unloading the truck.”
Then, the burden is put on the employer to then ask, “Well, why is your back killing you?” Then, you can say, “Unloading the truck.” The notice requirement is pretty loose and the notice of reporting requirement is pretty loose, but the problem is if you waited, your supervisor may develop amnesia when you come back later on and say, “Do you remember me telling you about my back pain?” They would go, “No. No. I talk to a lot of people all day long. They don’t tell me / I don’t listen or keep up with minor complaints.” If you don’t be more specific, you risk the supervisor saying you didn’t give them notice.
When should I request to see a doctor and does it affect anything if I don’t request within a time limit?
Well, once you provide notice to the employer, typically they will ask you if you need to see a doctor. If you don’t need to see a doctor, you don’t have to go see a doctor, but a lot of times the employer, especially larger employers, will have drug screens that they do. They will send you to one of their doctors to do a drug test if you report an injury.
In Georgia, if you do need to see a doctor, the employer is supposed to have what is known as a posted panel of physicians. You are able to go to that posted panel and choose. In fact, it’s your choice, it’s not the employer’s choice. They are supposed to list six doctors on there that you can see and it’s your choice of which of those six to see.
If I request to see a doctor and I have to choose from a list of doctors that they provide, should I talk to you first or am I okay to see their doctor without talking to an attorney?
Well, the doctors that are on the posted panel, those are all doctors that have been chosen by the insurance company to begin with. Those doctors are already in the employer/insurance company’s corner, so, the answer to that question would be yes. You should talk to me first if you can and the reason is because those are company doctors that are on that list. One of the things that I would do if we have enough time in between the company sending me to the doctor, I would ask that you get a copy of that posted panel.
A lot of times, now a lot of people have iPhone’s or cell phones that take pictures and I have people take a number of pictures and then send those pictures, email those pictures, to me. First of all, I can tell if the panel is valid. If the panel is valid and we have to choose one of those doctors, a lot of times I will know which of those six doctors is the best doctor to choose for you. It’s usually not one doctor is a great doctor and it’s usually that I know three of the other doctors are so bad or so against the employee that I wouldn’t want you to go there. It’s kind of a process of elimination.
The second thing that I can do is many times the panel is not valid because maybe out of the six, maybe one of the doctors has stopped taking worker’s comp, or maybe he is retired. If the panel is not valid for some reason, then you can choose any doctor that you want to see. I have doctors I know that are good doctors, and then I can recommend to you. That’s why you would want to talk to me and you wouldn’t have to necessarily disclose to the employer that you talked to an attorney ahead of time, but at least you would know what your rights are then.
Dealing with the paperwork.
When should I complete the paperwork? When should I fill out the claims form? Is there a process that I would need to go through to make that work properly?
There is no specific requirement under Georgia’s workman’s comp law that you have to fill out a particular type of claim form. Many times the employers will have their own what you call an incident report or something, and they want the employee to fill it out because at every turn, they want to get the employee telling their version or saying what body parts are injured, mainly so that later on you can’t deviate from that. It’s usually going to be the employer forcing the employee to fill out some of these incident reports or forms.
For example, one of the problems that I see sometimes is that if the employee doesn’t accurately or fully describe what happened. If they don’t fully and accurately describe what happened, then the employers say, “Oh, well you didn’t tell us about these other facts.” “There is only so much room on this claim form that you gave me; that’s why they didn’t tell you to give out the other facts.” That is sometimes a problem.
The other problems that I sometimes see on these incident report type forms are when the employer says, “What did you hurt?” Well, if the guy fell off a ten foot ladder, broke his back and also had a knee sprain; more than likely the guy is going to say, “I hurt my back.” He’s going to list the body part that was injured the worst when in fact, he may also need knee surgery later on as well. What I would tell an injured employee, is to be sure that you fully and accurately describe what happened and also list all body parts that are injured, no matter how minor the injury might seem at the time.
What I would tell an injured employee, is to be sure that you fully and accurately describe what happened and also list all body parts that are injured, no matter how minor the injury might seem at the time.
When you say, “Claim forms,” I am distinguishing an incident report from the other type of claim form which is the official board form, which is the WC14. Now, a WC14 is a form that you have to fill that out within one year within the date of injury. I mean, that’s the general statute of limitations. Without time to talk about statues of limitations, I want to say that that’s only one year because there are exceptions to that, but in general you would want to file that form within a year. If you had a medical only claim that was going on, you would want to go ahead and sometimes before the year is up, which is a long time, file that form. But, if you’re not an attorney, you may not know that you need to file that form within a year.
Do you, as a workman’s compensation attorney, help me fill out the forms needed?
Oh, yeah. I take care of all of that. I am able to pull up the forms and file them online with a state board and instantly see all the forms that have been filed in the state boards file. If I am representing a person, I handle all the issues including filing those forms.
Should I be as detailed as possible with explaining my injury (even if it’s minor)? Or, “Be as vague as possible” so that my attorney can decide what is relevant?
There are two schools of thought there and the thing is if you are going to start talking about specifics in your case then you just need to be sure that you flesh it out completely. If the employer is not going to ask more, then that is as far as the description of the accident needs to go, and that can be an option of how to complete that type of form as well. I mean, if you fell off the roof, you can just put, “Fell,” or, “Fell from the ladder.” In other words, it’s fine to be vague and simplistic but if they start questioning you and having you put details in, you’ve got to just be careful that you are able to fill out, to verbalize, what it is.
In other words, it’s fine to be vague and simplistic [when detailing your injury] but if they start questioning you and having you put details in, you’ve got to just be careful that you are able to fill out, to verbalize, what it is.
Frankly, some of the worker’s that I deal with are blue collar workers who may not have the ability to write three paragraph’s about how their injury occurred in great detail, so the injured worker needs to do one or the other. Either they need to be vague but accurate, or if they’re going into detail, they need to be sure that what they’re saying cannot be taken two ways.
If you need help, call Zack Hendon at the Hendon Law firm.
Zack Hendon is an attorney here in Metro Atlanta with the Hendon Law Firm. If you are in the Metro Atlanta area and you need help, be sure to give him a call at 770-284-3737.
Disclaimer: We need to let you know that this is for informational purposes only. Zack is an attorney with over thirty years experience and provides this information to help you but it cannot be considered legal advice. For legal advice, you’ll need to consult with an attorney near you. If you’re in the Metro Atlanta area, please give the Hendon Law Firm a call. They would love to sit down and talk with you.
Listen to Zack talk about what you should do if you’ve been injured in this video: