How to Protect Yourself
When you get hurt on the job, you need to immediately shift into “protect myself” mode. This is unfortunate but true – no matter how long you have been employed, and no matter that you have always thought of your employers as extended family. Once your employer reports a workers’ compensation claim an insurance company calls the shots and their goal will be to resolve your claim for as little money as possible. Your medical condition and treatment are secondary to financial concerns.
Here’s what you need to do to protect yourself:
Give Proper Notice – under Georgia law, you must give notice of your injury to your employer within 30 days of your work accident. If you wait longer than 30 days you may be barred from pursuing a claim. Notice should be given to a supervisor or manager as soon as possible. We suggest that you give your notice in writing.
Your notice should include:
- the exact date and time of your accident
- specific information about exactly what happened
- the names of any witnesses to your accident
- identify the parts of your body that are hurt
Gather evidence – you can help yourself by gathering evidence while you still have access to your work site. If your cell phone has a camera, take pictures of the location where you got hurt and take a picture of the posted panel of physicians (which should be located in a common area or breakroom). Also write down the name and phone number of any witnesses who have direct knowledge about what happened.
Write down everything – in the days following your accident you will likely get phone calls and letters from one or more insurance adjusters, supervisors at your employer and perhaps even a nurse who works for the insurance company. If possible, ask for the name of anyone who calls you and write down the time of the phone call and what was discussed. This information could e very helpful to your lawyer down the road.
Write down what happened and where you are hurting. Generally your memory will be better if you write down everything you can think of as soon after the accident as possible. You will be asked to repeat your story over and over so it is in your best interest to have a clear, accurate and consistent version in writing that you can refer to while talking.
It is especially important to write down every body part that is hurt. For example if you fell off a ladder onto your back you may be focused on lower back pain. If you also hurt your right knee and neck but don’t report those injuries the insurance company may deny that part of your claim. We have seen cases where the insurance company tells the doctor “treat this person’s lower back but don’t treat his neck or elbow because those injuries are not related to this accident.”
Seek help if you get overwhelmed – we are happy to speak with you regardless of how recent or distant in time you were hurt. That being said, you can avoid potential problems by giving proper notice and thoroughly and accurately describing your accident and your injuries. If you feel overwhelmed with how and what to do, please call our office at 770-351-0801. There is no fee to talk to us and everything you say remains confidential.
Can I be Fired after Reporting a Work Injury?
Yes, you can be fired. Georgia law does not stop an employer from terminating you after you are injured. However, your workers’ compensation claim will continue even if you are fired. As long as you were employed at the time of injury, you are covered.
What is Impact on Your Case if Fired?
Interestingly you may have additional leverage if you are terminated, because your employer would not have the option of offering a non-employee a light duty job. There are other implications to a post-injury firing which we can discuss with you in a personal conversation.
What Happens if I Get the Runaround or Threats from my Employer?
As noted above, some employers can become downright hostile to injured workers. Workers’ compensation claims can cause insurance premiums to go up, and, of course, your employer will have to fill your position while you are out. In other cases, management may give you the runaround or even make veiled threats with the hope that you will give up and go away.
If you sense that you are getting the runaround or that a supervisor or manager is trying to force you into signing something or saying something, you should stop, pick up the phone, and call us for advice. We represent the interests of injured workers only and we can help you understand and react to this unexpected development in your life.