The benefits of workers' compensation are twofold. It protects injured workers from having to bear the brunt of their expenses after a workplace injury occurs and it also protects the companies themselves from litigation filed by injured employees.
Some workers, however, mistakenly believe that workers' comp benefits are automatic. They are not, as injured workers have responsibilities in order to collect benefits. Also, certain procedures must be followed or a claim may be denied outright after an on-the-job accident.
Employees have the duty to inform their employers after being hurt or sickened on the job. Failing to do this in a timely manner can decrease the likelihood of a claim being accepted and benefits paid out.
Seeking treatment is paramount
Of course, in a life-threatening situation or other emergency, the injured worker's primary concern must be to seek immediate medical intervention and treatment. But not all on-the-job injuries rise to that level or even occur in a single incident.
For instance, suppose you suffer a minor cut or scrape while removing the gutters from a building. You wipe the blood off, stick a Band-Aid on it and go about your day. But in a day or two, instead of a healing scab on your arm, you discover a hot and suppurating infected wound underneath the bandage.
By immediately notifying your boss of the situation and your worsened condition, you can preserve your right to compensation. Such is also the case with cumulative injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome that develop and worsen over time. As soon as you become aware of the problem, you must notify your supervisor.
Follow correct notification procedures
You may initially report the incident verbally to your boss, but that will not be sufficient for purposes of opening a workers' comp case. You must provide written notification to your employer by filling out your company's official workers' comp claim form.
Make notes about medical treatment
When you seek treatment for your injury or condition, you should also jot down notes about each visit — what was said by you and your doctor, the doctor's prognosis and observations of your injury and any suggested treatment options.
Injured workers should also keep in mind that everything that they say during their visit can be included in the physician's report and misconstrued to deny or challenge a claim.
For instance, nurses and doctors often walk into a treatment room and introduce themselves, " Hi, I'm Dr. Smith. How are you doing today?" Because it's so common to reply to that often-rhetorical question with, "Fine," that unconscious response could be used to downplay the severity of your workers' comp claim.
Be proactive about your claim
In many cases, injured workers have the right to seek second opinions from their own doctors after a work-related injury. If your legitimate workers' comp claim is denied, you can seek legal redress through the Wisconsin civil court system.