Monday Workers’ Compensation Q&A: My injury isn’t serious

QUESTION: MY INJURY WAS NOT SERIOUS. SO WHY SHOULD I FILE A CLAIM?

ANSWER: BECAUSE YOU DON’T KNOW WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN. ALWAYS FILE A CLAIM NO MATTER HOW MINOR THE INJURY.

As a Central Park Parks Department Supervisor, Joe was always in the thick of things, literally and figuratively. He ran a crew of 50 and everyone looked up to him. After a really bad storm that left the Park a disaster area, Joe corralled his crew and they all got to work clearing tons of debris and cutting down trees that were about to topple.

One such tree required someone to shimmy up and secure a rope for the tractor. Joe didn’t think twice and up he went. Down he came with a twisted knee. “Hey,” Joe, thought, “if I can still stand and walk, it must be no big deal.” So Joe didn’t stop to get his “minor” injury examined and he didn’t file a claim for that “minor” injury. Instead, he continued to work another 12 hours.

Oh no, Joe! No!

When Joe got home that night, he threw some ice on his banged up knee, took a couple of ibuprofen, and then went back to work the next day. Over the next two years, Joe’s knee would bug him, but he would throw some ice on it and pop a couple of pills. But soon the ice and the pills weren’t working. Still, Joe did not see a doctor. He figured that as long as he could stand and walk it couldn’t be too serious.

Finally, his wife got sick of hearing him complain about the pain and dragged Joe to a doctor. The news was not good. Joe’s knee had several small tears and Joe would need arthroscopic surgery. When the doctor asked Joe if he had ever injured his knee, Joe remembered that big storm and him shimmying up a tree. The injury happened on the job so Joe went and filed a Workers Comp claim.

The news got worse. A Workers Comp claim MUST be filed within two years of the injury. Joe filed way past that deadline. Joe was out of luck. Not only did he not get his surgery paid for under Workers Comp, but he also lost out on a monetary award for the damage in the knee.

No matter how minor the injury, NOT filing a Workers Comp claim could be the worst mistake a worker could make. Many times when a worker is hurt on the job they may not know the extent of their injuries. Something that is very minor may progress over time to a serious condition. If that claim is not filed within two years of the accident that worker may be out of luck later on, especially if the condition progresses to a point where it really disables the injured worker.

Always, always file a claim no matter how minor the injury may be. None of us have a crystal ball to predict the future. Joe certainly didn’t and he got stuck with thousands of dollars of medical bills. So ALWAYS file a claim to make sure you are protecting your future.

Matthew Funk, a partner at Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP, has been practicing Workers’ Compensation Law for over a decade. He is a member of the Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, Injured Workers’ Bar Association and the New York Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health (NYCOSH). He has written for the New York State Trial Lawyers’ Workers’ Compensation Decisions program and has lectured on numerous occasions focusing on Workers’ Compensation Law.

Prior results do not guarantee outcomes.
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