You get hurt on the job, but your boss informs you that you aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. So now you can’t work for a few days and you have medical bills. Should you listen to your boss and go away quietly?
There’s a good chance your boss is just trying to get out of paying for workers’ comp, or he knows you got injured because of unsafe working conditions that would get him in trouble. If you’re an employee and not an independent contractor, you’re almost certainly eligible.
It doesn’t matter if you’re part-time, full-time, or seasonal. It doesn’t matter if you’ve worked there five years or five days. Workers’ comp isn’t health insurance; you don’t have to work there a certain amount of time in order for it to take effect.
Here’s the thing, though: You should consider the ‘aftermath’ of your decision for not listening to your boss.
File a claim or not to file a claim?
Now, if you’re worried that your boss will fire you for filing a workers’ comp claim, you should know that’s illegal in most places. However, it doesn’t mean your boss won’t fire you and try to blame it on something else, unfortunately.
This can all get complicated fast. If you’re worried about the process, feel free to call your state’s Department of Labor for guidance. Even better, you can contact a law firm with plenty of experience dealing with workers’ compensation issues. Most reputable law firms will give you a free initial consultation and tell you whether or not you may have a case. And if you, they’ll likely accept the case on contingency, which means they don’t get paid unless your case is successful.
But still, you need to understand the basics of workers’ comp.
The benefits and drawbacks of workers’ comp
Workers’ comp can work by using either a fault or no-fault system. States like California are “no fault,” which means it doesn’t matter if the worker was partially or fully to blame for the accident; they’re still entitled to benefits. That’s designed to keep the worker and the company from getting into a long, protracted dispute over who was to blame. In exchange for things like medical benefits and disability benefits (the latter gives you money when the injury prevents you from working), the worker is generally forbidden from filing a personal injury lawsuit against the employer at a later date. There are exceptions, though.
If it turns out you have cause to sue, an attorney can work as your advocate to get to the bottom of any workers’ compensation case. They’ll provide you with some investigative heft while you focus on recovering. You don’t have time to go chasing after witnesses and documentation to help prove your case, but a good attorney will.
For instance, say you’re having back pain after your accident and want to seek treatment at a place that specializes in helping accident victims recover (a place like Charlotte Chiropractic). However, your workers’ comp policy doesn’t want to cover that and won’t really say why. Your attorney should be able to suss out answers to situations that you can’t figure out on your own. Often, you and your workplace will differ on what “reasonable” treatment looks like. An attorney can help resolve such disputes.
If your boss is acting like you shouldn’t file a workers’ comp claim, it’s easy to consider just letting it go. You don’t want to make waves, after all. But think about this: If your boss is doing this to you, he’s likely done it to other injured employees as well. Remember, you’re not just fighting for yourself; you’re fighting for all the employees who came before you and the ones who will come after you.
All in all, everything boils down to your decision. I can’t provide advice, as it should be coming from reputable lawyers and consultants. It’s either make a decision yourself or seeking professional help. If I may suggest, you should choose the latter. It does involve fees, but you can’t afford to take things for granted.
That’s if you decide to move forward with your claim, that is.