Avoiding Common Mistakes that
Keep Truckers from Collecting Full and Fair Workers' Compensation Benefits
The most common mistakes made by workers claiming
Workers Compensation for an injury or illness are:
1. Failure to report the injury or illness.
Virtually all states require prompt reporting of accidents, injuries
or illnesses which are believed to be work-related. Minor injuries may develop into major
problems, even if the worker does not envision the long-term consequences. Very often,
what starts off to be a minor event develops into a major problem and if a minor event was
not reported promptly, the claim is treated with a high degree of suspicion by the
employer, the employers insurance company, and the Workers Compensation agency
or court. There is a belief in the injury area that a delay in reporting somehow affects
the validity of the claim and the credibility of the claimant.
2. Failing to give a full and complete description of the
Each time you visit a doctor, the symptoms you report are written
down in your permanent records. If you are having symptoms in various parts of your body
to varying degrees, you must report the symptoms in all areas. If you initially report
only the most serious symptom and later make a claim for injuries to other parts of the
body, the later claim will be viewed with great suspicion by the insurance company,
employer and the court. A statement that you forgot to mention the other symptoms
initially because at the time you hurt worse at other points will not carry much weight.
The best practice is to always be very thorough and very complete so that if some minor
symptom turns out to be the major source of disability at a later date, there is good,
solid documentation that the condition has been present from the beginning.
3. Failure to give an accurate and consistent description of the
accident, conditions or activities causing the problem
A worker is asked to give a description of the accident or the work
conditions when filing reports with employers, and also when filing reports with doctors,
disability insurance carriers, and a variety of people. If there are differences in these
reports, it gives an impression of inconsistency which can lead to suspicion and doubt,
and possibly the loss of otherwise valid claim. To prevent these inconsistencies, you
should write down how things happened and keep a copy so you can be sure to remember all
the details. Then, whenever you are asked to report what happened to you, always provide
the same, consistent description of the events leading to your injury or illness.
4. Signing consent forms or other documents provided by your
employer or the employers insurance company.
With all the variations in state laws, there are a variety of forms
that workers are presented by either their employer or their employers insurance
carrier as a part of the claims process. You must be very careful about what you sign.
Some of these forms contain references to terms that are not commonly used, and you may be
agreeing to give up a right that is terribly important under a particular state law. In my
home state, people are sometimes asked to agree to vocational rehabilitation counselors
and if the wrong counselor is agreed to, the consequences can be devastating. The same can
be true for selection of medical examiners. If you do not understand what you are being
asked to consent to, you need to get legal advice because the majority of the time those
signed documents will be held against you in court.
5. Exaggeration of symptoms.
Exaggerating the nature and extent of your disability is the worst
thing you can do. This occurs innocently in a lot of cases. There is much bad advice on
the street to the effect that you have to be virtually helpless in order to recover
Workers Compensation. This leads to workers giving exaggerated versions of their
problems when they are giving statements to insurance representatives, doctors, vocational
rehabilitation consultants, etc. The insurance industry regularly hires private
investigators to follow injured workers around and check out their situation. If they find
you doing something that is inconsistent with your claims of disability, you will be
viewed with great suspicion by all concerned and you may in fact jeopardize your perfectly
good claim. You do not have to be helpless or hopeless in order to recover Workers
Compensation. You do not need to exaggerate your symptoms to the treating physician or
other professionals involved in your case.
6. Failure to document work restrictions.
Very often, problems arise when workers are not certain of their
work restrictions and they do not keep copies of work restrictions their doctors have
given them. This may result in very serious misunderstandings and even dismissal for
either working above or below restrictions. To protect against possible misunderstandings,
you should always get your own copy of any work restriction that is turned in to your
employer or the employers insurance company.
7. Failure to obtain legal counsel in time.
We realize that lawyers are viewed with suspicion and skepticism,
and are the butt of a lot of jokes. However, the vast majority of lawyers perform valuable
services for their clients. The area of Workers Compensation and injuries in general
is not as simple and straightforward as one might believe. If you get into a situation
where you dont understand what is occurring and you are just trusting the
representatives of the other side, you may very well end up damaging your case beyond
The old adage about being penny wise and pound foolish is very
appropriate for these types of situations. People fear that if they hire a lawyer,
theyre going to have to pay a part of their benefits, even if the lawyer
doesnt do anything to obtain those benefits. This is not the practice of first-rate
Workers Compensation attorneys. In the vast majority of cases, you are not charged
unless someone actually does something that benefits you. Good Workers Compensation
lawyers spend a lot of time merely advising people and making sure that proper decisions
are made so that the long-term benefits will be appropriate.
8. Trusting the advice of your employer's Workers Compensation
insurance or risk management representative.
You need to understand that representatives of your employer or its
insurance company have different goals and interests than you. The adjusters may be polite
and pleasant and you may think their job is to look out for you. However, their job is to
close the claim as quickly and cheaply as the law allows. Don't be mislead into believing
they are going to get you everything you are entitled to.
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