Recorded Statements: Traps for the Unwary
You’ve all been there.
You’re hard at work when all of a sudden you feel a twinge, a pop or a sudden pain. If you’re like most workers, you keep going. You get paid based on what you produce, so you chalk it up to the nature of the job. Even though most employers have a company policy that requires a worker to immediately report all injuries, no matter how minor, they really don’t mean it. Reporting absolutely every minor ache and pain would drown the office in paperwork and grind the shop to a halt. And–let’s face it–most minor injuries are simply that: minor. Inconsequential. But not always.
So what’s a worker to do? The law in Illinois requires that an injured worker notify the employer of a work accident within 45 days. The notice does not have to be in writing, but it does have to be to a supervisor, a foreman or somebody with managerial authority. An employer might deny a claim because it was not reported “immediately” according to “company policy,” but this denial will not stand. In a conflict between company policy and state law, state law wins. (As a practical matter, the sooner that an accident is reported, the less likely it will be questioned or denied by the employer.)
One of the most common (and fatal) mistakes made by injured workers is giving a recorded statement.
Typically, after the boss or the HR department is told about the accident, they will alert their workers’ comp insurance carrier. An adjuster will then contact the injured worker and will ask for a recorded statement. This is the point at which the injured worker is in the greatest peril.
Never allow a recorded statement to be taken.
No matter what you are told, the law does not require you to give one. The insurance adjuster is not merely interested in gathering the facts or investigating the background of the claim. If that were true, there would be no reason for the recording; the adjuster could merely ask questions and take notes. The only reason for the recorded statement is to trap the injured worker into making damaging admissions that are designed to defeat the claim. Do not fall into this trap. An injured worker should cooperate with the investigation of a claim by providing basic information, but excessive detail is not required.
Remember: merely because you sustain an injury while you are at work does not mean that the injury will be covered under the Workers’ Compensation Act. The injury has to be “work-related.” The law is quite technical and tricky on this point. The adjuster’s only job is to save money for the carrier, and this always comes at the expense of the injured worker. The playing field is not level because the adjuster does this for a living and most injured workers don’t know the law. So you need to level the playing field.
You have the right to representation by your union and by an attorney. Better yet, tilt that playing field in your direction. Get someone on your side who understands the law and can provide you with advice that may save your claim from being denied or defeated. Your steward or business rep can provide you with help in getting legal advice at no cost from an expert attorney who understands the type of work performed every day by workers specifically in your line of work.
Call Capron & Avgerinos
Call Capron & Avgerinos now at(800) 535-4542 if you need help with a workers’ compensation case in Illinois or Iowa. We are ready to assist you over the phone or in person. We perform our cases on a contingent fee basis, which means we are not paid unless you recover compensation for your claim. Call Capron & Avgerinos at (800) 535-4542 – let us show how we can deliver results for you.