So, you have been hurt at work. Who do you need to tell? There are three very important people or entities that you have to tell about your injury.
The first thing person you want to tell is a supervisor where you work, and do this as soon as possible. (Your own supervisor would be best, but anyone higher than you in the chain of command will do).
If it was a bad accident and you are unconscious or are taken away by ambulance before you can tell anyone in a supervisory capacity what happened, just be sure to do it as soon as possible after the accident. Don’t assume that someone else will tell them. The best way to be sure is if you tell them. Even if you did not think you were hurt, so you did not mention the accident, but later you start to hurt, tell your supervisor as soon as you realize something is wrong. Even if your employer’s policy is to report the injury within 24 hours, tell your supervisor about the injury. The Virginia Workers Compensation Commission, which I am going to refer to as “the Commission,” allows 30 days to tell your supervisor about the accident, and the employer’s policy will not change that.
What to Tell Your Supervisor
You want to give your supervisor enough information to know that it happened at work. You can’t just say you “just got hurt.” That does not tell your supervisor that it happened at work. You have to say, “I got hurt while I was…” and then tell your supervisor what you were doing at the time you were hurt. Be very specific when explaining what happened, though. Not every injury that happens at work is able to be compensated in Virginia. The accident had to have happened because of what work makes you do. If it is something that could happen to you anyway, regardless of whether you are working, it is not as likely to be covered by workers’ compensation.
For example, if your job requires you to pick up a large heavy box, and you feel pain in your back when picking up that large heavy box, it is probably going to be covered because your job required you to do that. However, if you are walking down a hallway and trip over your own feet, it is probably not going to be covered because it is less likely that anything about your job made you fall. That does not mean it is definitely not covered, just that it is less likely. If you have questions about whether your injury can be compensated, contact an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation.
If your employer offers you a panel of doctors, you will have to pick a doctor from the list you are given. If your employer does not offer you a list of doctors, ask for one. In workers’ compensation, almost everything is the injured worker’s job to prove. This includes diagnosis and ability to work. You will need an examination from a doctor for both of these. If your employer still does not give you list of doctors to see, even after you have asked for one, go to your own doctor.
What to Tell Your Doctor
You also want to tell your doctor what caused your injury. Be as specific as you were with your supervisor about what happened. You also need to tell your doctor about all of the body parts that hurt or bother you now, but that did not bother you or hurt before the accident. You want to do this at every appointment. Not mentioning a body part makes it easier for the insurance company to deny treatment to that body part.
The doctor also needs to know whether you have ever had a problem with those body parts before. If you have, tell the doctor–no matter how long before this accident the problems began. Having prior problems to a particular body part and not mentioning it to your doctor is another reason for the insurance company to deny treatment. So, be very clear with all your doctors about what happened, what hurts and what hurt or did not hurt before.
Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission
Finally, tell the Commission. You can do this by filing a claim form with the Commission. Once the injury is reported to the insurance company, the insurance company has to notify the Commission of the injury. Once the Commission is notified, the Commission will send you a pamphlet explaining your rights and including a copy of a Claim Form.
Filing a Claim Form with the Commission is what protects you from the statute of limitations, or time limit for filing the claim, from passing. However, you have to file the claim for benefits with the Commission. Giving the Claim Form to your employer or sending it to the insurance company does not work. They are not required to file it for you. You have to send the claim to the Commission to protect your interests.
If your employer never notifies their insurance company, the employer does not have insurance, or if the insurance company does not notify the Commission, you can still get a Claim Form. You can get the Claim Form from the Commission directly by going to the Commission’s website or by calling them. You can also get a claim form from any attorney who practices workers’ compensation.
You Don’t Need to Tell Everyone
You don’t need to share your injury with anyone and everyone on social media. You do not need to notify all your friends on Facebook about your injury, nor do you need to update all your followers on Twitter about every step of your case. Some things need to remain private. The insurance company or your employer will be monitoring social media, and you don’t want to post more than you intend to about your life and risk giving them a reason to deny your claim. Just keep this one between you, your employer, your doctor and the Commission (and your lawyer, if you decide to hire one).
About the Author: Lorraine D'Angelo
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.