When you’ve been injured on the job, it’s your responsibility to report that injury to your employer. The time you have to report an injury varies from state to state. In New Hampshire, you technically have up to two years to make a report. But, of course, delaying the report delays your opportunity to secure workers’ compensation benefits. And, the more time passes, the more difficult it may be to prove that your injury was work related.
Employees are often reluctant to make a report about a seemingly minor injury. If you sustain a cut that you can bandage up and keep working, or fall but get right back up and just feel a little stiff, it may seem silly to make a report. You may be reluctant to create an unnecessary hassle, or feel like “complaining” about a minor injury will make you look weak or like a complainer. But, there’s good reason to report any injury, even if it doesn’t seem serious: complications often arise later. If that happens, your claim will be much stronger if you’ve already created a record.
Employer Responsibility after an Injury
Once you make the report, it’s your employer’s responsibility to kick off the workers’ compensation process. They’re required to file an initial report promptly. In Massachusetts, that means within seven business days. In New Hampshire, the employer has just five days to make that initial filing.
When Employers Don’t or Won’t Act
Unfortunately, employers don’t always fulfill their responsibilities. Sometimes, that’s just because they’re sloppy about getting the paperwork done on time and a simple reminder will solve the problem and get your claim moving forward. But, in other cases, the employer may refuse to submit the claim.
While some employers refuse in bad faith, it’s more common for an employer to mistakenly believe no filing is required. For example, if an employee contracts Covid-19 at work and attempts to initiate a workers’ compensation claim, the employer may determine that the employee isn’t eligible because the employment situation doesn’t meet the requirements for a communicable disease claim–in Massachusetts, that’s an inherent risk of greater exposure than the general public.
While coronavirus exposure is a relatively new issue for workers’ compensation administrators and there is no clear division of jobs that are and are not considered to carry an inherently greater risk, one thing is clear: the employer doesn’t get to make that determination. And, not all of the reasons employers refuse to proceed are gray areas like Covid-19 claims may be.
Some employers will decide for themselves that a report isn’t require because:
- You didn’t require medical attention immediately after the injury
- The believe the injury was your own fault
- The employer doesn’t feel the injury happened “on the job,” even though you were at work
- You didn’t meet the employer’s internal rules for reporting injuries
Some of these and other employer justifications may ultimately be a reason to deny a workers’ compensation claim. Others don’t impact your legal rights at all. Either way, it’s not a judgment call for the employer to make.
If your employer refuses to submit the initial report, you can initiate a workers’ compensation claim yourself. In Massachusetts, you can start here.
Of course, if your employer acts in bad faith before the claim is even filed, you may not be able to trust that the remainder of the process will move forward appropriately. You may also encounter other problems with your employer, like refusal to assign light duty work when you have restrictions. When your health and your income are on the line, you can’t afford to take chances. If you encounter conflicts in the workers’ compensation process, have suffered a significant injury and have a lot at stake, or just feel like you’re not sure what is happening or how to get reliable information, consider consulting an experienced local workers’ compensation attorney.