I got hurt at work. What do I do first?
If you are injured at work, the first thing to do is notify your employer of your injury. To be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, the employee must meet all the elements required by the Workers’ Compensation Act and one of those elements is notice. Failing to notify your employer of your injury in a timely manner can completely bar your claim.
The employer must have “knowledge of the occurrence of the injury,” or the employee must “give notice thereof” within 21 days of the injury; if not, then no compensation is due until notice is given, and unless notice is given within 120 days of the occurrence of the injury, no compensation will be paid. Therefore, it is important to give notice of the injury as promptly as possible. Waiting even one day to notify your employer may cause the employer to doubt the legitimacy of your claim.
Proper notice includes how, what, where, when, and to whom.
As to how notice must be given, the only guideline is to “inform the employer.” Therefore, notice can be oral (in person or by phone, for example) or written (a letter or an email), as long as the employer has actual knowledge of the injury. The best practice is to tell the employer face-to-face and have the injury confirmed with an injury report.
As to what, the employer must be informed that the employee received an injury in the course of employment.
When and where are obvious: the date and time of the injury and the location.
To whom means notice should be given to a supervisor of the employee, such as a foreman, or any agent of the employer regularly employed at the place of employment, such as a human resources or personnel administrator. It is not enough to say, “I'm hurt; I need to go to the doctor,” even if you think your supervisor saw you get injured. Don't rely on this, as a supervisor may later say, “The employee never told me the injury was from work.” Tell your employer your injury was from your work.
Here are some other tips about giving notice of your injury:
- Be complete and be consistent. It helps when the injury report and the history of injury given to the doctor are the same.
- Report your injury to the proper person:
- Telling your coworker is not notice.
- Telling your spouse is not notice.
- Telling your doctor is not notice.
- Telling your lawyer is not notice.
- Report the injury promptly. Although the Act allows you 120 days, even waiting 24 hours may cause the employer to question the credibility of your claim.
So, when reporting an injury, tell your supervisor what happened, how it happened, where it happened, and when it happened.
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