Some injured employees refuse to file a workers’ compensation claim because they’re concerned they will get fired. Instead of going after the benefits they’re entitled to, these employees use their private health insurance coverage to receive medical care and their sick and vacation days if they need to take time off work. This is a mistake.
When you seek medical care, most doctors will ask you how you were injured and whether you were hurt at work. If the answer is yes, the doctor may bill your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier or refuse to treat you until you get authorization from the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Sometimes the doctor may refuse to treat you because he or she does not accept workers’ comp patients.
Even if your private health insurance pays for your initial treatment after a work accident, you may run into problems later. Your private health insurer may retract payments or seek reimbursement for money paid if it finds out that you were hurt at work – and the medical records may make it obvious that you were hurt at work.
So what does this mean? It means that filing a workers compensation claim is your best option. You’re better off filing a workers’ comp claim than trying to figure out how to receive medical treatment without workers’ comp or trying to negotiate your private health insurance carrier’s lien down.
But wait! Can my employer fire me for filing a workers’ compensation claim? The answer is no. In Virginia it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. This doesn’t mean, however, that you have permanent job protection while your workers’ comp claim is open. Your employer can still fire you for other reasons.
Most employees have “at will” employment. This means your employer can fire you for any reason or no reason at any time. It also means you can leave your job at any time. If you don’t have a written employment contract, then chances are good that you have an “at will” employment agreement.
When you get hurt at work and file a workers’ compensation claim, your employer may start to look for a way to terminate your employment. If it’s smart your employer will not come out and admit that it wants to terminate you because of your claim. That’s rate. But it may pay closer attention to your job performance and attendance to see if you make a mistake. When you make a mistake, they’ll terminate your position. That’s why you should do your best at work when you have an open claim. Don’t give the employer an easy out.
If your employer terminates you and you think it’s because you have filed a workers’ comp claim, contact a workers compensation lawyer right away. You may be entitled to additional wage loss benefits because you lost your job and you may have a civil claim for retaliatory discharge. It’s important that you act quickly so that your attorney can develop evidence.