Workers' Comp: Myths & Misconceptions
Debunking Four Common Myths
Getting hurt at work can be scary. Not only do you end up with an injury, you also must face the unknowns that come with lost wages, medical expenses, and long-term healing. Many workers are hesitant to report their on-site injuries for fear of retaliation and even possible termination.
“Reporting is always the right decision though,” says Whitehurst, Blackburn & Warren attorney Joe Cargile. “By hiding an injury, you’re actually doing yourself more harm than good.
”Understanding the myths and misconceptions around Workers’ Compensation —and learning how to view your injury from the employer’s perspective —will help you “stock your toolbox” with important information should you or a loved one ever face a workplace injury.
If I tell my employer, they might fire me.
This simply is not true,” says Cargile. “And really, if this thought crosses your mind, you might want to question if this is the type of company you want to work for anyway.
”By not reporting out of fear of losing your job, you’re not only going to be out of work, but you won’t be able to take advantage of the benefits and wages that Workers’ Comp offers. Weekly wages (with some limitations), medical treatment costs, travel expenses to and from doctor visits, and the costs of prescriptions and medications can all by covered by your employer’s Workers’ Comp policy.
I should help my employer out by not putting in a formal claim.
Especially in industries where workers operate in dangerous conditions, like in factories or on assembly lines, employees may feel like their injury is a disappointment to their entire team. That sign in the break room that proudly reads “365 days injury-free” will have to be turned back to zero if you report your injury, so workers commonly feel pressure to deal with the report “under the table.”
“A company should always file a Workers’ Comp claim if an employee reports an on-the-job injury,” says Cargile. “It’s the law.
”Workers’ Comp, and the safety rating repercussions that come with workplace injuries, are simply part of the costs of doing business. Not only does filing a claim help an injured worker financially while he or she recovers, but it also holds companies to a high standard for safety.
“What’s the incentive for creating a safer work environment if your company isn’t totally transparent about injuries and unsafe conditions to begin with?” Cargile asks. “Reports leads to prevention.”
MYTH #3 I just started. I don’t have coverage yet. Unlike other workplace benefits, Workers’ Compensation usually doesn’t have a probationary or waiting period.
“With only a few exceptions, coverage is effective immediately,” says Cargile.
Even if you are placed into a job by a staffing agency, there is usually Workers’ Compensation coverage for you, possibly through a policy being carried by the agency rather than the company. If you are an employee of a staffing or temp agency, ask your placement coordinator how you are covered so you’ll immediately know the steps to take should you be hurt on the job.
Cargile encourages clients to think of Workers’ Compensation as a benefit, just like medical, dental, and 401K.
“When you’re looking for a job, weigh Workers’ Comp as a factor, especially if you’ll be employed in a more dangerous industry or role,” urges Cargile.
“If one company is offering you slightly better pay but they don’t have a Workers’ Comp policy, and another place has slightly lower wages but does have a policy, I’d strongly consider the latter. You can always work hard and move up, but you can never go back and get Workers’ Comp benefits if you need them and don’t have access to them.”
MYTH #4 If I tell a potential employer about a previous Workers’ Comp claim or workplace injury, I’m not going to get the job.
“Honesty is always the best policy when interviewing for a new job,” says Cargile. “It will be worse for you if you lie and your new employer finds out, than if you disclose your history upfront.”
Disclosing a past claim is also in your best interest should you end up injured at work again.
“It would be much harder to prove a new injury is not pre-existing if you hid a past claim from your employer and while evaluating our new claim, they found record of the old one,” Cargile explains.
The Bottom Line
At the end of the day, Workers’ Compensation exists to protect workers and businesses. It’s an insurance policy for you, and a standard safety benchmark for your employer. By failing to report out of fear, embarrassment, fault, or even just because you don’t think your injury is that bad, you’re doing yourself a disservice.
The legal team at Whitehurst, Blackburn & Warren has years of experience navigating Workers’ Comp claims in Georgia and Florida. Getting you the benefits you deserve is our top priority.
Contact WBW today at (229) 226-2161 to schedule a free no-obligation consultation.