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What if I didn't know I was hurt at work?

In Workers' Compensation, strange as it may sound, some people don't know if they are hurt. Either that or a lot of us seem to work through our pain thinking it will go away and unfortunately by doing so can unwittingly cause skepticism of their claim.

A common scenario is when a worker tweaks their knee or back lifting or climbing or some work activity and they don't tell anyone that day. The next day or two they may mention it to a coworker or even a supervisor that they are having back or knee pain but then may not mention it happened at work. They may never say work injury. The supervisor might ask, "are you okay," and typically the injured worker says "i don't know" or "I'll be fine."

This happens a lot. It's sort of surprising how a person doesn't really know if they are hurt or not. Or is it?

If every worker everywhere who experiences some sort of ache or pain reports it there'd be a million claims a day. Part of the system takes into account that a worker who is really hurt will complain and/or at least report a claim. However, a lot of times the person with the work injury isn't sure, or doesn't know what to do. Thus they may not tell anyone for fear of losing their job. Or they tell their supervisor they are hurt expecting some guidance but the guidance doesn't come.

Reporting an injury immediately or as soon as practicable is important. Under Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Law one has up to 120 days to report an injury. The supervisor and/or employer should then get or refer the injured employee medical treatment. Most employers are stubborn and instead of getting medical attention may say "let me know if you're hurt and we can address it then." They may never ask if you got hurt at work assuming (or hoping) you don't mention it.

If you don't properly report your work injury and aren't specific or assertive a lot of people may not go back to the supervisor thinking they already reported it. Now they work through the pain until they can't take it anymore and things get so bad they can't work at all. Now they want to report a claim and want to get medical treatment but time has passed.

If too much time has passed, more than 120 days from the injury the workers' compensation insurance carrier may deny the claim. Even still the insurance adjuster handling the claim sees red flags. Why didn't this person report it at the time? Why haven't they sought treatment yet? What happened between the injury and now that they want treatment.

Simply put employers don't want to get dinged for a work comp claim and supervisors know this as well. Employers worry about premium increases, insurance underwriting, OSHA among other things. Your supervisor may be worried about his job.

If you think you are hurt, severe enough to mention it to your coworker then you should mention it to your supervisor, especially if you think or know it happened at work.

Sadly this is part of the environment we work with in today's economy. However, as an attorney focusing and practicing Workers Compensation for over 20 years it is better safe than sorry. You should report your work injury immediately or as soon as practical but in Pennsylvania it has to be within 120 days from the injury date. And remember you must report what you hurt and how you got hurt.

For questions like this and any other work injury, personal injury, or social security disability questions call the lawyers at Dugan & Associates, Lawyers Representing Inured People.

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