Like most areas of law, workers’ compensation involves serious time restrictions. These are made all the more serious by the potentially devastating long-term health effects that can go hand-in-hand with such a claim. The most pressing questions you will likely have are: “How much is this going to cost and where am I going to get the money to pay for it?!” When you have suffered an injury, the last thing on your mind will be meeting deadlines but unfortunately, in order to get the compensation that you are owed, paying close attention to time limits is a must.
When Can I Make a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Four conditions must be met in order for an injured party to file a workers’ compensation claim. First, and most obvious, the worker must be an employee. Second, the employee in question must have suffered an injury or medical condition that a medical practitioner has diagnosed. The injury or medical condition must have been sustained in the course of employment and where the employment itself substantially caused the injury or condition. Finally, the employee has suffered or is suffering an economic loss due to the injury.
Notifying the Appropriate Parties
When the injury occurs, the injured employee needs to notify their employer of the incident and resulting injury or condition. The employer must be notified, in writing, of the injured worker’s name and address, what the injury is and how it occurred, and the date that the injury occurred.
In general, all workers’ compensation claims must be made within six months of the date that the injury occurred. However, this limit can be extended for up to three years if certain circumstances are met.
In circumstances where reasonable cause can be shown, the time limit can be extended from six months to three years. Reasonable cause may be shown in cases where there is an absence from the state, there has been a mistake, or in cases where the employee discovers their injury after the fact. In the event the injury or condition is not known until much later (for instance, whiplash, cancer, vision, or hearing problems), the time limit for filing a claim starts not at the time of the injury but at the time that the employee becomes aware of the injury and what caused it.
What Might Cause Someone to Miss the Deadline?
Aside from the obvious answers of mistake, confusion, or simple forgetfulness (all of which can be remedied by the involvement of a professionally trained workers’ compensation attorney) there are a few other reasons the claim might be made late.
Belief that the Injury Will Heal
As mentioned before, some injuries may take time to manifest in serious symptoms. Sometimes, what seems like a minor injury ends up having more serious consequences. In these scenarios, an injured employee might try and wait to see if the injury or condition goes away on its own. However, this can not only prevent them from recovering the appropriate amount of compensation, but might cause the injury to get worse in the meantime.
Fear of Retribution
Another reason that an injured employee might wait to report (or not report at all) is fear that they will experience discrimination from their employer. It’s a competitive world and no one wants to be seen as ‘troublesome’. However, there are laws in place to protect employees from being dismissed or punished for filing a workers’ compensation claim.qq
To meet important deadlines with any workers’ compensation claim, it is vital to act as soon as possible and get in touch with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer who can help you stay on track with your claim.