April 2, 2013
By John Merlino of Dinkes and Schwitzer
Working men and women are hearty folks. But there's a time when toughing it out is the last thing you want to do: when you're injured on the job.
Shaking off an injury might be instinctual, but ultimately detrimental when complications later arise or the initial damage grows progressively worse – but you've missed the 30-day window of opportunity to report the incident outlined in New York State Workers' Compensation law.
That's why we always urge INJURED workers to immediately report to their employer or supervisor, any type of injury they may sustain on the job.
Many workers falsely labor under the misconception, or are sometimes indirectly misled by their employer, that they must provide written notice about an injury sustained on the job. This simply is not the case.
All workers injured on the job, however, should immediately give notice verbally. You then should follow up in writing by sending a letter to your employer informing them that you were, indeed, injured on the job. You also need to learn the employer's compensation carrier so that your doctor knows who to bill. After that, it's hard for any supervisor or employer to claim they were not properly notified about an injury.
The next thing that injured workers need to do is consult a lawyer and file what is known as a "C3" form with the Workers' Compensation Board. Injured workers have two years from the date of accident to file this form. While the C3 is easily obtainable online, it's important to consult with an attorney because providing needless detail could hurt your claim for benefits and your chances in a lawsuit should you decide that a third party was culpable for your injury, under New York State Law.
Surprisingly, a lot of workers will satisfy the notice issue, but then never follow up. They never actually file a claim. They don't seek medical treatment. They don't do anything. If this is you, you need to know that there is a two-year statute of limitations to file a claim.
There are exceptions to this rule, but why take a chance?
Grinning and bearing an injury is especially common in the building trades where workers naturally become more resilient to pain. These hard-working men and women, however, may be putting themselves at a disadvantage because the constant pace of their physical activity could, for a time, actually mask the severity of their injury. Someone might trip over an air hose and injure a knee. But they brush it off and continue to work because they have a mortgage, school tuition, or other pressing financial obligation to honor (wage replacement under Workers' Compensation is only two-thirds of your weekly gross salary with a current weekly cap of $792.07 per week).
Now, suppose that same worker is suddenly laid off due to the recession. More time passes at home, and suddenly the pain intensifies and it becomes impossible to ignore the injury any longer. If the 30-day window has expired without providing notice to an employer, the injured worker in this scenario will find collecting Workers' Compensation benefits very difficult. Why take a chance? Education yourself and file.
Educate yourself now, and take the necessary steps to preserve your rights into the future.
William Schwitzer learned all about strong work ethics from his parents growing up on that farm in Connecticut, working alongside them to earn an honest-humble living. Today, he still maintains a full working farm but on Long Island where he returns to the days of his youth to recharge and reflect when not battling for the rights of injured workers in the courtroom.