Workers’ Compensation: Separating Fact From Fiction

Accidents happen. Sometimes, they’re impossible to avoid — unpredictable weather — or unforeseeable — a machine malfunctions for no apparent reason. Other times, it could be simple human error, from a co-worker’s careless mistake to your own momentary distraction. Whatever the reason, the bottom line is that you suffered an injury on the job and are unable to work.

Now, you probably have a number of concerns, from lost wages to mounting medical bills to the possibility of termination. Even if you’re familiar with the basics of workers’ compensation insurance, you’re likely feeling intimidated by the complicated process, or perhaps you’re worried about getting all the benefits you need to pay your bills. Thankfully, there are legal professionals who can not only help you understand your rights but can fight on your behalf to get the maximum amount.

What do I do first?

After a workplace accident, the first step is to report the incident to your supervisor, along with any injuries, and then seek medical care. (Of course, it goes without saying that in a life-threatening emergency, you will want to get medical treatment first and worry about everything else later.) Next, you may wish to seek professional, knowledgeable guidance on navigating the complexities of the workers’ compensation system, as there are many myths and half-truths regarding workers’ compensation, like:

  • It doesn’t matter how long I take to file my workers’ compensation claim.
  • My employer will fire me if I file for workers’ comp.
  • The accident was my fault, so I’m not entitled to benefits.

These misunderstandings and others may lead you to believe you’re not eligible for benefits or even make you feel you shouldn’t bother filing a claim in the first place. Conversely, such falsehoods may make it more difficult for you to receive benefits if you’re not careful to follow the necessary steps in a timely manner because someone assured you it wasn’t important. It can be crucial to separate fact from fiction to make sure you get the help you need.

Myth #1:  It doesn’t matter how long I take to file a workers’ compensation claim

In Connecticut, you have one year from the date of your injury or three years from the time you first began experiencing symptoms of a work-related illness or occupational disease to report your injury. If you fail to do so within this time frame, you may not receive the full amount of potential benefits, or the court may deny your claim.

Myth #2:  My employer will fire me if I file for workers’ comp

Doing this is “retaliation,” and it’s illegal. Punishing or firing an employee for exercising his or her legal rights is not only against the law, it opens the employer up to something called a wrongful termination lawsuit. Unfortunately, retaliation claims can be difficult to prove, so if you believe you were the victim of employee retaliation, you may wish to consult an attorney to explore your options for legal recourse.

Myth #3:  The accident was my fault so I’m not entitled to benefits

Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance. It helps cover injured workers for lost wages and medical expenses resulting from on-the-job injuries. The “no fault” terminology refers to the fact that an injured worker is entitled to receive benefits regardless of who was at fault in causing the accident; in exchange, the employee usually gives up the option to sue his or her employer.

Exceptions to the rule

As is often the case, there are almost always exceptions to every rule, which holds true for workers’ compensation. If you are uncertain of any of the aspects of workers’ comp — whether you’re ineligible due to your employment status or because of the type of accident that caused your injury, or if you received a denial of benefits but believe this decision to be a mistake, there are professional resources available. Don’t be afraid to get legal help to fight for the benefits you need.