How soon should I apply for Workers’ Compensation and Disability?
Don’t delay as benefits take time for approval. Time limits vary by state. Here’s help deciding when to file for workers’ compensation.
Workers’ compensation disability cases are very time sensitive. The time limits for filing a claim can vary depending on the state in which you work. Don’t miss out on all your benefits because of a missed deadline!
Strict rules must be followed about the latest that a claim can be filed. The general rule across many states is that the claim must be filed between 30 and 45 days. However, it could be as few as ten days, or as long as five years.
Filing an initial workplace injury claim is fairly straightforward, and should be completed as soon as possible so the statute of limitations is not something to worry about. In addition, no medical benefits or payment for lost time can be made until the claim is filed. But even before filing a claim, you must formally notify your employer. This can be done by contacting your boss, a manager, or a supervisor and simply telling them about it. Doing this task verbally poses a risk though; you will have no way to prove that this step was completed.
A better method is to file your worker’s injury form immediately. You will receive a copy and you can use this to prove that your company was notified. Since this is something you will have to do anyway, you will accomplish both the employer notification and the claim filing requirements right away.
If the claim is for an accident with no serious injuries, you should be able to complete the paperwork in short order. This might take longer if you are hospitalized. There are some specific conditions where you do not have to file:
- If you are unconscious and under medical care.
- If you have been quarantined with a contagious disease.
- If you are receiving extensive medical care, such as surgery.
Few cases fall under these exceptions, though.
Someone from your company should be able to help you if you are kept in the hospital. In such a case, oftentimes the workers’ compensation board will waive the initial notice requirement, but you don’t want to have to depend on this.
A different set of circumstances exist if you suffer an occupational illness from an accident, for example from the exposure to toxic chemicals. You may not know that you have an occupational illness for quite some time after the accidental exposure. The workers’ compensation board and the insurance underwriter understand this.
If this illness resulted from multiple exposures, it may be impossible to determine which exposure actually caused the illness. Because of this, the time limits will likely be different. Here are a few different statute of limitations examples from different states:
- From two years from the date of the last exposure.
- From the last date of your employment with that company.
- When you first missed work because of the illness.
- From the date that you became aware or should have known that this was a work-related illness.
- From the date of the first doctor’s appointment when you learn this is an occupational illness.
Some workers become convinced that their illness or injury is a minor problem that will heal and go away, but when it doesn’t they may be in jeopardy of missing the last filing date. This often happens if someone hurts their back while loading, for instance. The best course of action is to file the claim no matter how minor, and if it turns out the injury or illness is truly insignificant and causes no further problems, it is easy to cancel the claim.
In a similar case, if you have already had a workers’ compensation claim filed and it was closed, but the injury worsened later, you must open the claim again. The time limits on such a situation can vary widely.
Because there are such a wide variety of time limits, it is always wise to file the claim as soon as possible to protect yourself.