According to Health and Safety Executive Statistics from 2013, 1.1 million workers suffered from an illness they believed was caused or made worse by their workplace. Getting hurt or sick on the job can cause a wide range physical and emotional stress. While some employees have no issues reporting accidents that happen at work, some reports show that up to two-thirds of work-related injuries and illnesses go unreported.
Common reasons for not reporting workplace accidents and illnesses include fear of being fired, fear that the boss will no longer want to consider the employee for promotions, fear of harassment, not wanting to complete the paperwork and process of filing a claim because it seems too complicated or too technical, etc. While these reasons are all understandable, they can have consequences in the future.
The longer an employee fails to report an illness or injury, the less time they will have to file a claim. States require both employees and employers to report accidents within a specific timeframe. The risk of not reporting early is that the injury will persist and worsen. When employees can no longer stand the pain, or cannot afford to pay for the treatment on their own, it may be too late to claim for work or medical expenses.
The employer may also face negative consequences in the long-term. For example, not reporting injuries may result in higher premiums and audits. Also, if the accident is an OSHA reportable event, the employer may have to pay fines and face other penalties.
Best practice for notifying an employer is that is should be done as soon as possible, although some states give employees up to 90 days after an injury or illness occurred to report it. In extreme cases that result in death, the dependents of the worker, or their parents if they have no dependents, are given up to two years after the death date to file a workers’ comp claim.
Employers may feel that reporting accidents is not in their best interest. However, companies that value their workers and workplace safety know that early reporting and intervention has some upsides. These include cutting down on the health costs and legal fees related to workers’ comp, and the ability to improve workplace safety as well as safety programs.
If you are injured at work, inform your supervisor immediately – in writing, if possible. This will start the process towards receiving workers’ comp. This does not mean you are suing the company, but rather requesting benefits for your injury or illness. Under FECA (Federal Employees’ Compensation Act), workers may initially select any qualified doctor to treat them, although there are some restrictions when it comes to the use of chiropractors.
If your employer does not file a claim immediately after you have notified them, it may be best to consult with a workers’ comp lawyer. Your attorney will work on your behalf to ensure you are treated fairly under the law. Having a lawyer to represent you signals that you are serious about the process.