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Chapter 6 biggest mistakes to avoid

“Workers’ Compensation in Missouri: Succeeding in Your Injury Claim”

Biggest Mistakes to Avoid

This chapter discusses the biggest mistakes that you will want to avoid if you are trying to settle your claim on your own. These mistakes can severely damage your claim.

1. Waiting to tell your boss

You have 30 days to report a traumatic accident to your employer (However, this deadline may be extended in rare cases). R.S.Mo § 287.430. You have a statutory duty to provide notice to your employer of your injury, and failing to tell your employer may prevent you from recovering benefits. R.S.Mo § 287.430. If there is any chance you are injured in an accident, tell your boss, supervisor or the appropriate person right away. Put the notice in writing – file an injury report. Go get medical care. Do not be afraid of retaliation and don’t be afraid to report the injury. Responsible employers want their employees to get healthy and back to work. Unscrupulous employers violate the law if they fire you in retaliation for making a work comp claim or being injured on the job. If you do not report it, you will be challenged later on whether or not that injury ever occurred. You have two years to file a claim in a work comp, but you need to report that injury right away. If you don’t report it you cannot validly assert that they should have paid your medical and paid you temporary total disability while you are off.

2. Not filing a written injury report

You need to file a written injury report in order to properly notify your employer of your injury. The notice/report must include the time, place and nature of the injury as well as the name and address of the person injured. Send an email confirmation of it. Fill out the paperwork at the work comp doctor’s office or the urgent care or wherever you are being treated and say that it is a work-related injury. Do not go to the hospital and tell them that you injured yourself at home or deny that it is a work comp injury when it really is. Fill out the accident or injury report, keep a copy for yourself, list the witnesses to the accident and keep a separate piece of paper or you have the names, phone numbers and contact information of the witnesses.

3. Denying the accident occurred or down play it for the good of your employer

The truth will set you free. Always communicate and be clear about how the accident occurred and how bad your symptoms are. If your employer is trying to keep it off the books and pay for your medical with cash or put it on your own health insurance, it is improper and they are going to hurt you. They are going to use this to deny that you ever had an accident in the first place.

We have had many instances where employers talk their employees into putting the medical treatment on their health insurance so they don’t have a reported injury. Then, later when the employee is permanently disabled or needs surgery, they deny the accident ever occurred and deny the work comp benefits. Employers can have pressured to keep accident free days and have good safety, but that is only for some corporate bottom line. If you are injured report it. Many times, companies make that up issue to put pressure on employees not to report injuries. This is illegal to do and unfair. They are only trying to hurt you.

4. Not getting medical care

Get medical care right away. Go to the emergency room, urgent care, or primary care doctor and report the injury and get the medical care that you need. You have insurance and your health is important to you. If you don’t seek treatment right away, your employer and insured are going to try to say that it is because you weren’t hurt. A medical visit will always be paid by your work comp insured, or we will sue until they do. Do not delay and go get the medical care you need right away. Try to keep all your appointments and get follow up medical care with the company doctor, physical therapists, tests and anything else that is required. Employers and insured might use missed appointments to deny further medical care. This creates a good record for you in the ultimate claim for temporary, total, or permanent disability.

5. Not talking to a lawyer

Talk to a lawyer before things progress too far. Sure, if you have a minor injury and get some simple care you may not need a lawyer. However, employers will not tell you that you are entitled to a lump sum disability at the end of the case. Even after all of your medical care is paid, your employer pays 2/3 of your wages while you are off work; you are still entitled to a disability claim at the end of the case. That is the only amount that lawyers should never take a fee on. They should never take a fee on your medical care, TTD, or PTD unless it is a hardship hearing. So, talk to a lawyer to make sure that you are getting all the medical care you need, that you are fully paid for your time off, and that you can make sure that you get full payment for your temporary total disability or your permanent disability award.

Workers’ Compensation benefits are already cheap and underpay employees for what they really go through and Workers’ Compensation doesn’t pay for pain and suffering which is very real and tangible. So, the minimum you can do is to make sure that you talk to a lawyer to ensure you get full compensation under Workers’ Compensation rules. Remember that even though you may hurt a limited part of your body, it may affect your body as a whole. Attached hereto as exhibit A is the Workers’ Compensation chart for measuring disability levels.

6. Trusting the company doctor.

The company doctor often minimizes your injuries, gives you minimal medical care, and releases you back to work as soon as possible. There are certainly good doctors out there that look out for their patients, however, workers compensation insurance companies will only continue to use doctors if they play the game for the employer and the insurance company. This works to the disadvantage of the employee. However, employers are entitled to control the medical care and control who you go to, so you got to go to them.

But, make sure that you are a good advocate for your problems. Make sure that you tell the doctor of all your pain and symptoms and make sure that you ask for tests, consult with your attorney to make sure that record is being clearly made in the doctor’s file. Handwrite a note after your doctor appointment about everything you told the doctor – odds are that what you say happened will be different than what the doctor’s notes say. Make continued complaints, send emails, or communicate in writing to your nurse case manager or the employer’s’ doctor about the symptoms you are going through and what is going on. Be kind but persistent. There is no reason to create an adversary relationship with a doctor, nurse practitioner or a claim representative. At the same time, you don’t want to roll over and have your right trampled upon. If this game starts getting played it is even more important to get a lawyer.

7. Accepting too little compensation for your disability at the end of the case

. As stated above, you’re entitled to a permanent total or temporary total disability award. Too often, injured workers take too little for this. A good lawyer will advocate strongly and make sure that the employee is being fully compensated for all the levels of disability relating to the claim. Further, a good lawyer knows how to make sure that all aspects of the injury are taken into account, disfigurement, limps, and mental health issues that is associated with the injury.

It is important to get a clear view of the full extent of injured workers damages. That is why we send all of our workers’ compensation clients to good doctors who can evaluate them and have good advice about the full extent of the injuries. This enables us to maximize the disability payment at the end of the case. We also want to make sure that if the company doctor is missing anything, our doctor makes sure that all conditions are being treated for and insure that you get to your maximum medical improvement as soon as possible.

8. Being inconsistent or not credible with complaints

Make sure that you are complaints of pain are consistent with the same parts of the body. Make sure that you continually relate how the incident happened and don’t deviate from what occurred. Make sure that you don’t complain to a doctor of excruciating pain on the same say you post on your Facebook page that you are pain free and going for a 20-mile bike ride. Be specific about your injuries, what you can and can’t do, and what hurts. Sometimes insurance companies even go spy on workers/employees who say that they are completely incapacitated to try to show that they are liars. Don’t get caught in this game. Be clear about what happened, the parts of your body that was injured and your symptoms.

9. Don’t be afraid to talk about all of your pain and suffering and even mental health issues

Many injured people don’t want to reveal the full extent of their pain, stress, anxiety, or mental health issues relating to an injury. This is a mistake. Males tend to be too tough and not want to sound wimpy and females tend to want to be strong for their families. These intentions are very good however, when communicating about injuries to employers, insurers, and medical personnel, you need to be detailed, accurate and candid.

Fully explain the nature of the pain and symptoms you are having. Fully explain the mental stress, depression, and other consequences of your injury. The doctor should treat you for this and provide you with needed therapy and/or medication to help you recover. There is no reason why you should delay your full recovery by not disclosing mental health issues. There certainly is a stigma in our society about doing so, but do not be afraid to overcome that. People experience post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety, depression and other conditions very often with work related injuries. These injuries are traumatic and affect your job and your ability to care for yourself and your family. It is not a sign of weakness that you want to get help and get better. Sometimes these are a result of chemical changes in your brain that you do not have control over.

So, be candid and get counseling or medication to get better. This should be included in your work comp claim. We can get you additional medical care from these professional and get you rated and get your mental health rated and part of your disability claim. But we cannot do that if you don’t make these complaints.

Not filing a claim for compensation with the Missouri Division of Worker’s Compensation within 2 years of the accident

Although you have 30 days to place your employer on written notice of your workplace injury, you only have 2 years from the date of the accident to file your claim for compensation. R.S.Mo § 287.430. However, your employer has a duty to report your injury to the State of Missouri within 30 days of learning about it. R.S.Mo § 287.380. If your employer fails to report your injury within 30 days of knowledge of the accident, then your deadline to file your claim for compensation with the State extends from 2 years to 3 years.

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