“To File or Not To File? That is the Question”

It is common knowledge that there are many work-related injuries that are not reported.   The lack of reporting denies the Injured Worker the opportunity to claim workers’ compensation benefits which may include disability benefits, medical care, and vocational rehabilitation benefits.

This article will discuss why both Employees and Employers don’t report work injuries claims. This article will also discuss whether there are times in which a claim should not be filed.

Why Is the Reporting of Work Injuries Important?

Pursuant to Labor Code Section 5402, a reporting of an injury triggers the obligation of the carrier to investigate liability for the claim and make a determination within 90 days.   Further, if the claim is not denied, a presumption of injury can apply.   Further, during the period of delay, the Applicant is entitled to receive medical care paid for by the carrier up to $10,000.00.

How Significant is Under-Reporting?

In the study, “[a] questionnaire and interview survey was administered to 110 workers performing similar tasks and several managers, health, and safety personnel at each of three industrial facilities. Although less than 5% of workers had officially reported a work-related injury or illness during the past year, over 85% experienced work-related symptoms, 50% had persistent work-related problems, and 30% reported either lost time from work or work restrictions because of their ailment. Workers described several reasons for not reporting their injuries,” . Under-reporting of work-related disorders in the workplace: a case study and review of the literature Pransy, Snyder, Dembe & Himmestein Pages 171-182 | Published online: 06 Dec 2010 https://doi.org/10.1080/001401399185874.

Note: In the study, significantly more Workers may have viable claims than those who report injuries.

Why Do Employees Under-Report Their Work-Related Injuries?

In a recent article, Employees reasons for not reporting injuries was discussed. Under-reporting of work-related disorders in the workplace: a case study and review of the literature Pransy, Snyder, Dembe & Himmestein Pages 171-182 | Published online: 06 Dec 2010 https://doi.org/10.1080/001401399185874. The reasons for the under-reporting were as follows: including fear of reprisal, a belief that pain was an ordinary consequence of work activity or ageing, lack of management responsiveness after prior reports, and a desire not to lose their usual job.

Fear of Reprisal: Note: Injured Workers are afraid that their Employers or Co-Workers can act in a negative fashion towards them if they report an injury.   Injured Workers are afraid that their pay, benefits, and work privileges and rights will be impacted.   Co-Workers can also be adversarial towards the Injured Worker if they are implicated in the injury claim. For example, they might be the cause of the injury claim as they may have stressed out or injured the worker.  Also, the Co-Workers may be a witness to the injury. The Co-Workers may not be happy that they are brought into the claim and have to make a statement against their Employer.   Note: Labor Code Section 132a protects Injured Workers and Employee Witnesses to claims.

A Belief that Pain was an Ordinary Consequence of Work Activity or Ageing: Note: Individuals with limited knowledge of medicine may not understand that certain medical conditions may be work-related.   This may be compounded by the fact that the Worker may not have sought treatment or medical care to be diagnosed with a condition.

Lack of Management Responsiveness After Prior Reports Note: Many times, injuries are reported and managers do nothing.  At that point, an Injured Worker just gives up.

 Desire Not to Lose Their Job Note: Certain Work Injury claims can impact one’s ability to work. Medical treatment or reporting may generate work restrictions that would preclude them from performing their job.   Also, there is the fear that they will be terminated for filing a claim.  Note: Labor Code Section 132a protects Workers against wrongful termination for reporting of a claim.

One reason not mentioned in the survey was

Worker not aware of their Rights to Claim Work Injury Note: Many workers are not aware of their workers’ compensation rights. Also, there are some injuries can be work-related that an Injured Worker would not know that they are work-related.

Why Do Employer’s Under Report Employees’ Work-Related Injuries?

In the article, it noted that “interviews with management representatives revealed administrative and other barriers to reporting, stemming from their desire to attain a goal of no reported injuries, and misconceptions about requirements for recordability.” Supra.

Desire to Attain a Goal of No Reported Injuries Note: Workers’ Compensation claims cost Employers money due to increased premiums.   For self-insured Employees,  there can be increased reserves because of claims.   In sum, work injuries cost Employers money.

Misconceptions about Requirements for Recordability Note: some Managers or Leads may not understand that what a work injury is and therefore not offer paperwork to the Injured Worker to file a claim.

Should an Injured Worker Report a Claim?

One should take thoughtful consideration when deciding whether to filing a claim.   They should think about whether it is worth filing the claim.  They should think about the implications in the workplace, and they should think about whether there is a medical/legal basis for filing the claim.  Consultation with an attorney is recommended to make the determination.   Further, a medical consultation might be of import as to whether there is industrial causation of the medical problem.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information. Click Here.

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