You’ve been hurt while on the job, and now your employer or its insurance company is sending you all kinds of papers to sign. Should you sign everything you receive? Before you risk giving away your rights, there are some important things you need to understand about the documents and releases you’re likely to run into after you’re hurt at work.
Don’t Sign Anything Until You Know Your Rights as an Injured Employee
Company representatives often pester workers who have been hurt about signing various papers and forms. They want you to do this in order to helpthem. This is not to help you. In fact, it's set up to hurt you. It may seem hard to believe, but employers and insurance companies will take steps to protect their own interests, sometimes at the expense of the employee who has been hurt. By blindly signing any document you’re given, you could be accidentally giving them permission to take your rights away.
To help you make sense of all the documentation you’re receiving about the accident or your injury and what it really means, here is an overview several different types of "forms" adjusters or company representatives will want you to sign—and why you should refuse.
This is a document that says you release, or "drop" your claims, in exchange for a certain amount of money. If you sign a release, you've just signed your claim away forever. They put a lot of "legalese" and complicated language in the document to confuse you, hoping you will not truly understand what you are signing. Companies routinely include a "low ball" amount of money in these early release forms. They count on the fact that you will not know the true value of your legal claim, so you won't know that what they are offering you is patently unfair. If you sign one of these, you will likely be leaving a substantial sum of money on the table. Or worse, the company will include tricky legal language in the release, and you may be left with nothing at all.
Sometimes the company wants you to fill out an "accident report," "accident form," or "diagram." This is similar to a "recorded statement," which you know you should never agree to give. These accident forms are set up in a way to confuse you, as well as get you to document that your accident happened in a way that will suggest fault on anyone other than the actual responsible party. Never sign an accident report that you don’t agree with. While you should always report when you are hurt at work, you may want to review any official accident report forms you are given with an attorney before you sign.
A medical authorization form may seem fairly innocent. But did you know that, by signing it, you are giving strangers the right to go get a copy of every single one of your medical records for every doctor you have ever seen in your life? That's right. The medical authorization form will give your employer and its insurance company access to the records from every doctor, every medical test, every hospitalization, and every surgery in your medical history. If you sign, strangers can go get this medical information and do whatever they want with it, with no regard to your privacy rights. They will dig up information and materials that should never be a part of your claim, and then they will try to use it against you. The only medical information they need should be directly related to your work injury, so make sure you aren’t giving them the right to violate your privacy and dig through medical records that are none of their business.
Employment Records Authorization
By signing this, you are giving strangers the right to dig up your records for every job you have had in your entire life. This is a huge privacy intrusion, and it's completely unnecessary in order to process your claim. To add insult to injury, they will find bits and pieces of information in your employment records to use against you when you try to make your injury claim.
What to Do If You’re Being Pressured to Sign Papers About Your Work Injury
There are also other forms they may try to get you to sign, but the most common forms are listed above. Keep in mind that, although the company may tell you that you have to sign a document immediately, the company cannot force you to sign. Instead, it is best to have an attorney review the release or form and tell you exactly what rights you are giving up by signing. Most attorneys will review these kinds of forms free of charge.
All too often, an injured worker will sign a release that may limit the right to recover money for medical bills and lost wages. The releases are usually written with a bunch of legal words and most people don't realize what rights are being given up because the language in the release is too confusing. If an adjuster is trying to get you to complete any forms after an accident, we will review them for you for free and give you our recommendations. No one should feel pressured to sign a release, especially without knowing exactly what it means! To get help now, call our law office at 1-877-724-7800.