John D. Rockefeller once said: “Next to doing the right thing, the most important thing is to let people know you are doing the right thing.” While Rockefeller didn’t have workers compensation in mind when he said this, it certainly applies.
The law mandates that all employers who regularly employe four or more employees must have workers compensation insurance. S.C. Code Ann. § 42-1-150. When an employee suffers a work injury, the law provides the injured employee should notify his or her employer about the accident immediately, or as soon thereafter as practicable. S.C. Code Ann. § 42-15-20. After that, the matter is left to the employer’s workers compensation insurance company (or to the employer if self-insured) to make a decision as to whether the claim will be accepted. This is how the system is supposed to work.
Frequently, injured workers make mistakes with the very first part of this process. Sometimes injured workers fail to provide notice immediately. This can be because they may not feel as though they are really hurt initially, because they are hurt but think it might be fine in a few days, or for other reasons. While waiting for these reasons is not crazy or unreasonable, it is not correct. The right thing to do is to report the injury to a supervisor, lead person, human resources, or other company representative responsible for handling work injuries. If it turns out to be nothing, then there likely won’t be anything more to do with the claim and it could close. However, if it turns out to be an injury that requires treatment, then by providing immediate notice you have given yourself a huge head-start on having this handled appropriately under workers compensation.
When possible, be sure you are completing a written incident or accident report when you provide your employer with notice of a work accident or injury. If such reporting is not part of the process at your job, then getting something in writing noting the date of the accident and the date reported is the next best thing. Short of that, at least be sure to document for yourself when you were injured, to whom you reported it, when you reported it, and what (if any) instructions you were given.
Anything an injured employee does regarding a work injury that doesn’t begin with reporting the injury as a work accident as soon as possible is wrong. Starting off by doing the wrong thing doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot get benefits under workers compensation, but you certainly open yourself up to being questioned about the injury, which could lead to a denial of benefits that could have been avoided by simply doing the right thing at the outset.
So remember, if you have an accident or injury at work, do the right thing and report it immediately, and make sure people know you are reporting it by completing some written notice of that accident or injury when possible. If you have questions regarding reporting/notice of a work incident, or if perhaps you may have done the wrong thing regarding reporting yourself, give me, Jeremy Dantin, a call at (864)585-5100 or email me at email@example.com and I’ll be happy to review your case with you to see how we can help.