Reporting a Work Injury Under Workers’ Compensation Law
Before you file your workers’ compensation claim, you likely will need to report your injury to your employer. This process is governed by certain time limits and other rules, which you will need to follow to preserve your right to benefits. You should not delay in reporting your injury, since this could cause the insurer to suspect that your claim is lacking in merit.
The deadline in which you must report a work injury depends on the state, but often it is about 30 days. Some states provide a few months, while other states provide 10 days or even less. The deadline may be different if you are seeking benefits based on an occupational disease or a cumulative condition, such as a repetitive stress injury. In these cases, the clock starts running when the worker knows or reasonably should know that they have a condition and that it is related to their work. Failing to file within the required period could mean losing your right to benefits. (Some states provide for a reduction in benefits instead.) There are very few exceptions to meeting the deadline. Perhaps the most common is when the worker’s supervisor already knows of the injury.
An injured worker should try to provide written notice to their employer, even if their state only requires oral notice.
Some states require written notice, while other states allow a worker to provide oral notice. This usually means informing your supervisor rather than a coworker. Even if oral notice is allowed in your state, you may want to provide written notice to create a record in case the employer or insurer later argues that you failed to report the injury in time. You may need to use an accident report form provided by your employer or by the workers’ compensation agency in your state. Sometimes a worker will need to complete forms provided by both their employer and the state. In other cases, you can simply write a letter or email that contains the necessary information. You should make sure to keep a copy of any forms and documents that you submit.
The contents of the form or other written notice usually will include the name and contact information of the worker, as well as the time and place of the accident. You will need to specifically explain how the accident happened and how you have been affected by it.
The reporting requirement should not be confused with the process of filing a workers’ compensation claim. Separate deadlines govern this process.
Tips for Completing the Report
The report should be as accurate as possible without including any inconsistencies, exaggerations, or speculation.
Errors or inconsistencies in a report of an injury can jeopardize a worker’s right to benefits. Employers and insurers review these reports carefully to see if there are any grounds to dispute a claim. You should make sure to accurately describe your symptoms, since the insurer may check your description against the medical records provided by a doctor. You should not exaggerate the scope of your symptoms or restrictions, and you should not make guesses about what may have caused your accident if you are uncertain. At the same time, you should make sure to report even minor symptoms thoroughly. You may not know at the outset whether these minor symptoms could worsen or change, leading to a more significant impact on your working ability than you anticipated.
The report is usually filed early in the process before the worker has received significant treatment and sometimes before their diagnosis is clear. You should not provide medical details, such as a diagnosis, unless your doctor has provided them to you.