How To Have A Successful Worker's Compensation Case in Washington, D.C.
1) Report Your Injury The Right Way
Make sure you tell a supervisor, superintendent, or someone in your company's HR department that you got hurt at work and how it happened. It is not enough to tell a coworker or just say “my back is hurting“ - you need to make sure you give specifics on how the injury happened. If possible, notify your employer of your injury in writing and keep a record of the correspondence.
2) Choose The Right Doctor
In D.C. and Maryland, you have the right to choose the doctor you want to see for your work injury (Virginia allows you to choose from a list of three doctors). Don't let the insurance company make the decision for who will be providing medical treatment for your work injury. You'll end up with an insurance company doctor or clinic who receives all their patients from the insurance and won't have your best interests at heart.
3) File Your Claim In The Right State
If you can file your claim in DC, do so. If you are a high-wage earner, the benefits are generally higher in DC than in Maryland or Virginia and the DC workers comp system is generally more favorable to injured workers than insurance companies.
4) Tell Your Doctors Exactly How The Injury Happened
When you go to the hospital, urgent care, your primary care physician, or any specialist, make sure you tell the doctors and nurses how the injury happened and that it happened at work. It’s not enough to say “my back hurts" - you want to make sure your doctor relates your injury, symptoms, and medical treatment to the work injury. So make sure to tell them.
5) Get A Disability Slip Or Work Note From Your Doctor
Every time you see the doctor, get a note that indicates whether you can return to work or what restrictions and limitations you have. Do not rely on the doctors office to send this to the insurance company or to have the doctor put it in his report. Don’t leave the office without this. Work notes and disability slips are critical to keeping your benefits going.
6) Don't Give A Recorded Statement To The Insurance Company
The insurance company has enough information to decide whether to accept your claim. A recorded statement that they control will not help you. They use these statements to look for excuses to deny or delay paying you benefits or authorizing your medical treatment. Your insurance adjuster has taken thousands of these statements and knows how to manipulate what you say. Don’t let them.
7) Write Your Own Job Description
Take the time to think about and write out all of the physical activities you do at work. For example, if you have a rotator cuff injury, think about the times you have to reach overhead or lift and carry things were use your arm for balance climbing a ladder, etc. Estimate or research the weights of tools, equipment, and materials that you have to lift and carry. Don’t rely on a corporate job description from your employer - it will be too vague.
8) Get Your Medical Records
As a patient, you are entitled to your medical records and you need to get the entire chart, including your doctors notes, test results, reports, etc. This will help you make sure your doctor has related your treatment and symptoms to the injury at work and that the medical records are complete and accurate.
9) Get Your Work Emails
If you use email at work and have communicated with your company about your work injury or reported it by email, or have anything related to your worker’s compensation case in those emails, download them, print them, or save them. If you can’t return to work, your employer may freeze or disable your account and you won’t have access to those emails anymore.
10) Follow Up, Follow Up, Follow Up!
Worker's compensation insurance adjusters handle hundreds of claims at a time and they are trained to delay, deny, or limit the benefits and medical treatment the insurance company hast to pay - after all, that is their job. So every time you send them something, follow up to make sure they get it and act on it. As an example, we have full-time staff who’s job is to follow up with insurance company adjusters, constantly calling and emailing them to get things done for our clients.
11) Get The Best Lawyer For Your Case
All lawyers are not created equal. In a complex legal and medical system like workers compensation, you have to know the statute, the regulations (there are 58 chapters of regulations alone in DC), the court decisions, the insurance companies, their lawyers, the judges, the doctors - it’s a lot. Unless you have a very minor injury and haven’t missed work, don’t try to take it all on by yourself. Because it’s not a fair fight - you’ll never know when you’ve made a mistake - the insurance company will never tell you.
Get an attorney with the right experience and authority to guide you so you can stand up to the insurance company and get the benefits, medical treatment, and settlement you deserve. Call us today at 202-393-3320 for a free, no obligation consultation