Worker's compensation is designed to protect both employees and employers from serious financial and other harm. And while a claim often goes relatively smoothly, unusual situations can make the entire thing more complicated.
One of these situations occurs when a worker files a workers comp claim after termination from their employer. Can you do this? What obstacles do you face? And how are your rights protected best? Here are some answers every employee needs to know.
Can You File As an Ex-Employee?
In general, yes, a worker may file a worker's compensation claim whether or not they are still employed by that employer. When the accident or injury occurred, you were covered by that insurance. You must still generally meet the same requirements — such as notifying the employer and filing a claim within the allotted time — as you would if you were an employee.
Why Might You File Later?
Many workers comp claims are begun very quickly because the injury or accident is obvious and clear. But even then, you may file as an ex-employee. For example, a manufacturing worker might be exposed to toxic chemicals during their last days before their resignation takes effect. By the time they realize they were exposed, they might have moved on.
In some cases, the harm isn't as easily identified or the cause determined. Repetitive stress injuries take time to build up, so you may not realize you have a valid claim until you've taken another job. Or perhaps you didn't realize at the time that your accident was covered by worker's comp. An employee traveling for business who slips and falls at the hotel might not understand that their travel period is generally covered.
What Is Your Burden of Proof?
While the good news is that you can file a claim, the bad news is that you have a higher burden of proof. Insurers are inclined to dismiss claims made by former employees in order to protect businesses from false and retaliatory claims made after termination. You must demonstrate definitively why your claim is not retaliatory.
In addition, the longer it takes to notify the employer or start a claim, the harder it is to link injuries and financial loss to the work-related incident. This is especially problematic if the worker took a similar job elsewhere, and the injury could be linked to either work environment.
Where Should You Start?
Regardless of whether or not you have already left your job, whether you've notified the employer, or whether you've started a claim, a good worker's compensation attorney is your best resource. Make an appointment today to learn how your unique circumstances affect your case and how to compensate in order to be successful.
Contact a local worker's compensation attorney to learn more.