For workers in some industries, accidents and injuries happen nearly every day. Construction, farming, and other inherently dangerous industries have accident rates far higher than many others.
But even if you work in a fairly safe field, workplace injuries can strike at any time. It only takes one slip or fall to put you in the hospital for weeks.
Learn more about the importance of reporting workplace injuries below.
You Can’t Sue Your Employer for Workplace Injuries
If you sustain an injury at work, your first reaction might be to sue your employer for your medical treatment and mental distress. But if your employer holds workers’ compensation insurance, as nearly all California employers must, you can’t recover damages from them in a lawsuit. Instead, your only recourse for compensation is to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ comp covers your medical bills and lost wages. It also pays benefits if you become too disabled to work.
If you’d like to apply for workers’ comp, you’ll need to report your injuries to your employer first.
Not Reporting Workplace Injuries Can Cause Big Problems Down the Road
When you hurt yourself at work, it’s sometimes tough to know how bad your injuries are. Imagine that you smacked your head against an exposed pipe, for instance. Instead of reporting it, you might simply take an aspirin for the pain and carry on with your job.
But even such a minor injury can cause confusion, irritability, and memory problems. You may not notice these issues right away. By the time you do recognize something’s wrong, it could be too late to make a report.
Many workers don’t feel much pain immediately after a workplace accident. Adrenaline floods your body when you’re hurt and acts as a natural painkiller. But when it wears off, you realize you’re in much more pain than you first thought.
If you fail to report your injuries and delay medical care, how can you prove those injuries happened at work? If you can’t, workers’ comp might deny your claim by saying you hurt yourself at home, not on the job.
If your claim is denied, call a workers’ comp attorney for advice.
Some Injuries Can Take Months or Years to Develop
Many work-related injuries have a specific cause you can point to, such as a collision or fall. But some, called cumulative trauma injuries, develop slowly over time.
For instance, if your job involves repetitive movements, you could develop carpal tunnel syndrome. This condition can make your hands feel so stiff and painful that you have trouble doing your job.
You may also breathe in toxic chemicals, like asbestos, while you work. Employers must provide adequate personal protective equipment for employees who work around toxic chemicals. But even with protection, those chemicals can still make you very sick.
Chemical exposure has devastating consequences for workers. These can include birth defects, breathing problems, and even cancer. Often, it’s difficult or impossible to reverse these effects. Many conditions related to chemical exposure require lifelong treatment that can reach millions of dollars.
Even with excellent insurance, you’ll likely need to foot a large chunk of the bill. You may also need to drop out of the workforce altogether if you’re too sick to work. A lack of a steady paycheck can spell serious financial woes for you and your family.
This is why it’s important to report your condition as soon as you realize you’re feeling unwell due to the nature of your job.
Reporting Workplace Injuries Protects Other Employees
By law, your employer has to protect you from on-the-job accidents. They must abide by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations for fall protection, machine guarding, hazard communication, and other worker protections.
You can’t sue your employer for violating OSHA regulations, but you can make a report to protect your co-workers from suffering injuries too.
Your employer will need to take corrective actions to prevent more accidents and injuries. They may post better safety signage, offer further training, or replace the defective equipment that caused your injuries.
Failing to Report Means You Could Miss Out on Workers’ Comp Benefits
To claim workers’ comp benefits in California, you’ll need to report your accident to your employer within 30 days of the incident. But it’s not enough to just verbally tell your employer that you were hurt.
You must file a formal written report in your employer’s accident book, too. Your employer will give you paperwork so you can explain the details of your accident.
If you miss the 30-day deadline, you could forfeit your right to workers’ comp benefits. That means you’ll need to pay your medical bills and other necessities yourself. Workers’ comp also won’t pay you any lost wages even if you’re too disabled to work.
The statute of limitations also applies. In California, you have one year from the date of the accident to file a workers’ comp claim. This deadline extends to five years if you develop a new disability.
For example, the five-year deadline would apply if your temporary disability becomes permanent or if you have a new need for medical care.
If you wish to file a workers’ compensation claim for a deceased loved one, you have one year after their accident to do so. Workers’ comp pays funeral expenses and death benefits to dependents until the youngest minor’s 18th birthday.
Contact an Attorney if You Need Help With the Workers’ Compensation Claims Process
Reporting workplace injuries is a must if you intend to file for workers’ compensation benefits. Even if you think your injuries aren’t that bad, it’s wise to make a report anyway. Your injuries may heal just fine on their own, but what if they don’t? Without workers’ compensation, you might need to pay the bills by yourself.
If workers’ comp denied your claim because you failed to report an accident or didn’t seek medical attention, you could benefit from the advice of a seasoned workers’ comp attorney. Contact Khalil Law Group at (714) 617-7870 to find out how we can help.