Workers injured in an on-the-job accident or diagnosed with an occupational illness may face significant medical costs and require time off from work that results in lost wages. Thanks to Delaware's workers' compensation system, the vast majority of injured workers do not have to bear these financial burdens on their own.
Created by the Delaware legislature, workers' compensation is a no-fault system that compensates injured or ill workers for things like medical expenses and wages lost while recovering from work-related injuries. One key feature of the system is that injured workers are usually eligible for workers' compensation benefits, even if personal negligence played a role in their injuries.
However, there are still a number of ways that an injured worker's actions can affect their workers' compensation claim—sometimes negatively so. If you were injured in a workplace accident or were recently diagnosed with an occupational illness, avoid the following mistakes, which may jeopardize your ability to collect the workers' compensation benefits to which you are entitled.
Failing to Properly Report the Injury or Illness
Statute of limitations laws dictate how long workers have to notify their employers of an on-the-job injury or occupational disease diagnosis in order to be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits. In Delaware, injured workers must inform their employer of their injury immediately. Workers with occupational illnesses must notify their employer of their diagnosis within six months of learning that their condition is related to their employment.
Neglecting to Seek Medical Care or Comply With Treatment Instructions
Employer insurance companies are unlikely to pay out workers' compensation benefits for injuries that weren't confirmed or treated by a medical professional, which is why it is so important for employees to seek immediate medical attention for on-the-job injuries—even if they appear minor. While it is crucial for injured workers to be thorough when describing the workplace accident and their injuries, embellishing injuries and symptoms could damage the ability to collect benefits.
Once the doctor has diagnosed the injuries and prescribed a course of treatment, workers should follow the doctor's orders to the letter. Employees who skip follow-up visits with their doctor or refuse to follow the prescribed treatment plan may be seen as preventing their recovery, potentially endangering their workers' compensation benefits.
Workers' who disagree with the treatment plan prescribed by their doctor can seek a second opinion and consult with an experienced workers' compensation attorney.
Refusing to Return to Work
Sometimes the doctor treating an injured employee may recommend that a patient return to work, even if he has not fully recovered from his injury. In these cases, doctors may specify modified or alternative work duties on the return-to-work release. Refusing to return to work when offered modified duties is a serious mistake that can lead to the suspension, termination, or denial of an injured employee's workers' compensation disability benefits.
Workers worried that they are not yet well enough to perform the duties outlined in their release to return to work should discuss these concerns with their doctor and attorney, and potentially seek a second opinion.
Handling the Claim Yourself or Hiring the Wrong Attorney
While it is technically possible for injured workers to handle their own workers' compensation claims, hiring a knowledgeable workers' comp attorney can help take some of the hassle and frustration out of the process. Personal injury attorneys with experience handling workers' compensation cases can be extremely beneficial at any stage—from ensuring that employers are properly notified of occupational injuries and illnesses to providing advice that helps their client avoid settling too soon (before reaching maximum medical improvement).
If you were injured on-the-job, the Morris James Personal Injury Group can provide the skilled legal representation you need when seeking workers' compensation benefits. Contact the Morris James Personal Injury Group today to schedule an appointment for a free initial case consultation.