If you have workers’ compensation benefits through your employer, you have to be careful not to assume that you will be covered for your on-the-job injuries no matter what. There are various situations that can unfold that make it difficult for you to get your owed benefits as described in your workers’ compensation coverage. Perhaps the most common reason why injured workers have trouble getting benefits is that they wait too long to file for them, and the statute of limitations expires.
You only have a set amount of time to report your injury or accident to your employer, and there is only so much time after that to file a claim with the insurance provider. Waiting beyond that statute of limitations could prevent you from finding any sort of financial or medical relief through the workers’ comp policy they provide you as an employment benefit. But just how long is “too long” of a wait? The answer varies among states.
Workers’ Comp Statutes of Limitations in California
In California, personal injuries – whether they occur at work or elsewhere – have a two-year statute of limitations, meaning that you have two years to report your injury and make your claim. Waiting beyond that could halt any action you take against the responsible party. An insurer that receives a workers’ compensation claim filed after the statute of limitations expires can ask the court to dismiss the case, and that is practically guaranteed to happen.
However, the two-year statute of limitations to file a claim is not the only or the first time limit. In California, you need to report your injury to your employer within 30 days of your accident. If you wait longer than that to say something to your employer, then they will have valid reasons to suspect that your injury has been exaggerated, misrepresented, or entirely falsified. They and their insurance provider can legally deny your claim at that point, which will put you into a legal battle that could have been avoided had you said something sooner.
As a general rule, you should tell your employer about your on-the-job injury the same day it happens. In doing so, you can start to outline details of what happened while your memory is fresh, which will come in handy if your case is later denied. You will also be able to get medical attention quickly. Waiting a while to see a doctor because you do not tell your employer could jeopardize your health.
Special Circumstances for Statutes of Limitations
Not every injury that occurs at work is going to be noticeable the moment it happens. Sometimes a slight ache can gradually grow to chronic pain. For example, employees who work at a computer all day may suffer a repetitive stress injury like carpal tunnel syndrome due to hours and hours spent at a keyboard. Imagine that you felt an ache in your wrist as an office worker three years ago, but it only started debilitating you recently. Has the two-year statute of limitations come and gone, ending your workers’ compensation claim before it had a chance to begin? In short, no.
The statute of limitations to report your work-related injury starts from the moment it becomes noticeable, not necessarily when it happens. This means if a doctor diagnosed your carpal tunnel syndrome three years after you first notice an ache, you could still be eligible to get workers’ compensation as long as you report that diagnosis and new symptoms to your boss within 30 days and the claim is filed within two years. Or, for example, if a medical examination discovers that you had a serious illness from chemicals in your workplace five years after you quit that job, you would possibly still have two years to bring your claim to the attention of that employer. It is, however, a gray area of the law, and insurance providers are likely to fight whatever claims you make, especially when they are seemingly outside the original two-year timeframe.
Get Legal Counsel for Workers’ Comp Questions
Due to the possible complexities with filing a workers’ compensation claim, especially one outside the normal two-year statute of limitations, it is advised you hire an attorney to manage your case from start to finish. Otherwise, you will be going up against an insurance company on your own, and they will not hesitate to take advantage of your inexperience.
If you need to back your claims with a professional, Alvandi Law Group, P.C. in Orange County is here to help. Our law firm is entirely committed to workers’ comp cases in California, and we have been helping those in need for more than a decade. Call (800) 980-6905 today to request your free case evaluation with our compassionate and knowledgeable team!