After a serious injury happens on the clock, you want to look to your employer for support and as someone who has your best interests in mind. Unfortunately, too many employers and their insurance companies take advantage of injured employees, even when the employee was hurt because of something the employer did or failed to do. To protect the bottom line and keep you in the dark about your rights, employers and insurance adjusters may use common tricks, traps, and even outright lies to try to prevent paying you what you deserve for your work injury. If you have been hurt at work, here are some important things to watch out for.
Signing away your rights
Make sure you carefully read each document you receive and know what you’re signing. If you don’t, you may accidentally sign away your right to file a work injury claim, give up your privacy, or admit blame for something that wasn’t your fault. If you are receiving a lot of paperwork you don’t understand, it’s a good idea to show those documents to your attorney before you sign anything. Learn more about what to watch out for when signing papers after a work injury.
Never give a recorded statement without first speaking to an experienced attorney. Although the company representatives and insurance adjusters may tell you it’s all routine, these recordings are typically not necessary. Instead, the recording may only be used to find a way to twist your words and minimize your claim. Learn more about why employers ask for recorded statements after work injuries.
Seeing a company doctor
It isn’t unusual for employers to send injured workers to a doctor that the company has chosen. However, company doctors or the medical providers recommended by the insurance company may be making decisions with the company’s best interests in mind—not the injured worker’s. The doctor you see for your work injuries documents crucial information and makes important medical determinations related to your case, such as:
- The full medical extent of your work- or accident-related injuries
- How much you have recovered from your injuries
- What kind of care you need to heal fully
- What kinds of specialists or specialized treatment you might need
- What kind of care you will need in the future
- What kind of work you are capable of performing
- When you should return to work
Your physical wellbeing and access to medical therapies are largely determined by your doctor, and your doctor’s opinion of your condition is a major factor in determining how fairly you are compensated when a negligent employer is responsible for what happened to you.
Because your doctor plays such an important role in your treatment and recovery, it’s usually wise to avoid seeing a doctor recommended by your employer or the insurance company. In most cases, you have the right to see an independent doctor who will report your injuries honestly and treat you fairly.
Intimidation and threats
Your employer and its insurance company may build a case against you, hire experts to “prove” the accident was your fault, threaten retaliation if you pursue a claim, or otherwise bully you into accepting a low settlement or giving up your claim. If you feel like you are being threatened or harassed after getting hurt at work, it is very important that you at least talk with an attorney about your rights and how to get the harassment to stop.
Pressure to return to work before you’re ready
Your employer may pressure you to return to work too soon or to perform more taxing duties than your doctor recommends. Although you may also be anxious to get back to work, don’t go back before you and your doctor agree you’re ready. If you return too soon, you risk hurting yourself and making your work injury claim more complicated. Keep in mind that returning to light duty can also sometimes put your rights in jeopardy.
Some workers are surprised to find out that important evidence about their injury cases has disappeared by the time they need it. Companies are keen to protect their image and their bottom line after a serious accident, and they aren’t motivated to hang on to evidence that might help an injured worker prove the company should be held financially responsible.
Ultimately, if you wait too long to start collecting evidence after you’ve been injured at work, it may be too late to obtain and preserve the evidence you need to pursue compensation. If you’re concerned, an attorney who has experience settling and litigating these kinds of cases can:
- Make sure evidence is collected
- Make sure investigations are fair
- Make sure evidence is preserved
See an example of how this happens in a work injury case involving destruction of evidence that we settled for $1,000,000.
Spying on injured workers
If you have suffered any significant injury, it is likely that the insurance company will consider conducting surveillance on your case. Surveillance evidence is typically used in a personal injury case to try to discredit what you or your doctor say about your injury. A picture of you doing something that you have said that you can no longer do, or a video clip of you doing something that would conflict with your doctor’s restrictions, can have devastating effects on your case. For example, a video may show you helping your spouse with the groceries, but it won’t show you stretching your back in pain afterwards. Keep in mind that there are legal limits to what an investigator can do when conducting surveillance. When an investigator takes illegal or unethical actions, such as trespassing on your property or contacting you directly, your attorney has a good shot at striking the surveillance tapes from the case.
Be aware that your employer and the insurance company may also be watching you on social media sites. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube can be a great way to communicate with loved ones. However, even if you have absolutely nothing to hide, it is possible for your social media to be used against you. Even seemingly innocent posts—such as family pictures, general updates, and other details of your life—can be misinterpreted or “spun” to make your injuries seem less severe than they actually are.
We don’t want to make you feel paranoid or worried about what your employer may do after you’ve been hurt at work, but it is important to understand that your employer wants to do whatever it can to minimize the risk of a large verdict from a claim you could file. Videos, pictures, and social media posts can help to convince a jury that you aggravated your own injury or that you are lying about your injury. The wisest thing to do is assume that you are being watched, follow your doctor’s orders, and be mindful of what you do in light of your injuries. You can also contact an attorney for help.
Denying claims when injuries aren’t reported immediately
Sometimes, injuries are the result of repetitive injuries over time, or the symptoms of the injury aren’t obvious until days or weeks after the incident. Sometimes, employers will even try to talk employees out of reporting a work injury. In all these situations, an injured employee may not report that he or she was hurt until some time has passed. If you think the symptoms you are having now might be related to an accident at work, you need to go see your personal physician right away to find out if you have any permanent injuries.
Although your company may try and deny your claim because of the delay in reporting your injury, you should know that you may still be able to successfully pursue compensation. If you have questions, an experienced personal injury attorney will be able to guide you through the process.
Blaming you for the injury
As soon as you are injured in a work accident, the company brings in claims adjusters, attorneys, company representatives, and even company doctors to start investigating what happened. One way for the company to protect itself from liability for what happened to you is to try to blame you for what happened. This often involves “investigations” that may seem like they are helping uncover the truth. In reality, these company investigations into a work accident usually involve:
- Jumping to conclusions before investigation is complete. As the company investigates your claim, it is looking for evidence it can use to protect itself. This can lead to biased investigations that already favor the company over the victim.
- Digging into your past and work history. In order to limit its own responsibility, the company may call you in for an investigation of your past performance on the job, history of mistakes, and adherence to safety policies.
- Performing a rushed or cursory investigation. Although investigations into serious work accidents should be thorough and objective, companies may rush through investigations looking only for the evidence they need to save the bottom line.
Using your private insurance for work injuries
Watch out for employers that tell you it's totally okay for you to use your private health insurance for your work injury. If workers’ compensation applies to your work injury, you should always file through workers’ compensation. To get treatment under private health insurance, the employee has to tell the doctors it is not an on-the-job injury. This is because, if an injury is work related, then only workers’ compensation insurance can be used. If it is work related, private health insurance will not apply. So, ultimately, the company is asking the employee to lie about the circumstances of the injury.
Why would a company not want an employee to pursue a claim under workers’ compensation insurance? Because the more claims they have under workers’ compensation, and the further those claims go, the more they will have to pay in insurance premiums the next year.
Why would a company tell the employee not to report it as an on-the-job injury? Because, if the employee has a third-party or non-subscriber claim, the defendant companies are going to point to the records where the employee said the injury was not work related. See how this works? If you are hurt on the job, don't fall for this trick. Run your entire claim through workers’ compensation, if available, no matter how many times the company asks you to use your health insurance.
Contacting your loved ones
While we talk a lot about how workers can protect their rights after they’re hurt, the truth is that spouses and other loved ones may also need to learn how to avoid potential tricks, traps, and mistakes. It isn’t unheard of for employers and insurance companies to contact the worker’s spouse or family members shortly after an injury or death, and the goal is often to work out a quick settlement or collect evidence that will help minimize how much the company must pay in a later injury claim.
Take steps to protect yourself immediately after a work injury
As soon as you are injured at work, you enter a world of difficult choices and challenges. As you begin the fight to hold your employer financially responsible for what happened, it becomes necessary to protect yourself from a host of mistakes, wrong turns, and misleading information that can threaten to wreck your claim. Large employers and national insurance companies have all the resources and information they need to defend against your claims of injury, and you may need to call on extra help to get what you truly deserve. If you have questions about how you are being treated after a work injury, or if you need help understanding your rights, contact VB Attorneys today at 1-877-724-7800 for a free case review.