After being injured on the job or diagnosed with a work-related illness, workers may also face financial challenges such as unexpected medical bills or wages lost by missing work while they recover. Fortunately, Delaware law requires most businesses with employees to carry workers' compensation insurance that offers a wide range of benefits to those injured in the workplace.
However, very strict laws—known as statutes of limitations—govern just how long an injured employee has to initiate the workers' compensation claims process or petition the Industrial Accident Board regarding a denied claim or disputed benefits.
Waiting too long to notify an employer of a workplace injury or occupational illness can put a worker's ability to collect workers' compensation benefits in jeopardy. If you suffered an on-the-job injury, here's what you need to know to protect your right to benefits.
Notifying an Employer
How long injured or ill employees have to notify their employers depends on whether they are seeking workers' compensation benefits for an on-the-job injury or occupational illness. Employees who sustain an injury in the workplace must notify their employer immediately and request medical services.
Employers are not required to begin providing workers' compensation benefits until they have received this notice.
Delaware Workers' Compensation Process Overview
The Delaware workers' compensation claims process can be both complex and confusing. This overview can help injured workers better understand what to expect:
- An employee is injured at work
- The employee reports the injury right away to the employer and requests medical treatment
- The employer files a First Report of Injury form with the Delaware Office of Workers' Compensation
- The insurance provider contacts the claimant or their attorney to let them know whether the claim was acknowledged or denied
- After the claim is acknowledged, the employer and employee sign an Agreement to benefits, and the employer files a copy of the agreement with the Delaware Industrial Accident Board.
When an Employer Denies a Claim or Won't Agree to Benefits
Unfortunately, not all workers' compensation claims resolve in an amicable agreement between employer and employee. When a claim is denied or an employer refuses to agree to benefits, the employee has two years from the date of a workplace injury to file a petition with the Delaware Industrial Accident Board.
The petition results in a hearing before the Industrial Affairs Board (IAB), which issues a final decision accepting or denying the claim. If the claim is denied, the worker has 30 days to appeal the decision to the Superior Court.
Seeking Additional Compensation for a Previously Approved Claim
When an on-the-job injury changes or worsens, the affected worker may require further workers' compensation benefits. Delaware's workers' compensation system allows employees whose cases were previously approved by the IAB to file claims for renewed or increased benefits within five years of the date the last compensation was paid.
Available Workers' Compensation Benefits
Injured workers can seek a variety of scheduled statutory benefits through their employer's workers' compensation insurance, including compensation for:
- Medical expenses, including treatments*, prescription medications, and mileage reimbursement
- Physical therapy *
- Chiropractic appointments*
- Temporary total or partial disability (lost wage) payments
- Permanent partial impairment benefits
- Death benefits in the event that a worker is killed in an on-the-job accident
- *The injured worker must treat with medical providers who are Certified by the Industrial Accident Board.
Do You Need Help Handling a Workers' Compensation Claim?
If you were injured in a workplace-related accident, the knowledgeable workers' compensation attorneys with the Morris James Personal Injury Group can help you ensure you receive all the benefits to which you are entitled. Contact us today to schedule a free initial review of your workers' compensation case.