The moment an employee is injured on the job, the clock starts ticking for them to alert their employer and begin the process of filing a Workers’ Compensation claim. In most states, the deadline to submit a Workers’ Compensation claim to a company’s insurance provider is 2 to 3 years but varies by state. However, the deadline for employees to submit a first injury report to their employer is much shorter—often just days or weeks.
Delays in submitting these initial reports can have serious impacts on both the employee and their employer and can raise Workers’ Compensation claim costs up to 51%.
First Injury Reports: What Are They?
The Workers’ Compensation system was designed to support employees who are injured or contract a communicable disease while on the job. Not only does Workers’ Compensation enable employees to pay for medical treatment, but it also helps replace wages if they need to take time away from work to recover.
The first step an employee must take to access their Workers’ Compensation benefits is notifying their employer of an injury in a written report. Typically this is a standardized form with information about the day, time, and location of the injury, the circumstances around the injury, whether any co-workers were present, and whether or not the injury has been treated.
Missed Deadlines Can Mean Increased Costs and Lost Benefits
Prompt injury reporting protects the company, as well the employee. According to a study conducted by the National Council on Compensation Insurance (NCCI), claim costs rise when reports are submitted more than two weeks after an employee is injured. It can also open a company up to litigation risks if employees feel forced to take action to prove a claim. The NCCI also found, when reports are submitted the day an accident takes place, attorneys are involved in just 12.8% of claims. This number rises to more than 31% for claims made later than four weeks.
The responsibility, however, is on the employee to submit the initial report, and many don’t realize how little time they have to report before the deadline. Missing that deadline can mean having their Workers’ Compensation claim benefits reduced or denied outright.
Different states have different deadlines for when these initial injury reports need to be completed—and they can vary greatly. Colorado, for example, requires employees to report an injury within 4 days, while Nevada gives 7, and California allows 30. Other states, like Connecticut and Delaware, don’t give a specific timeframe but ask employees to report as soon as possible.
Even in states with extended deadlines, the sooner a report is filed, the better. The longer an employee waits to file, the more problems they can run into trying to prove an injury is related to the job, and the greater the potential risk of an injury developing into something more serious. A relatively minor injury that might have been easily addressed through physical therapy, for example, could require surgery months down the line if left untreated. And by then, it may be difficult for the employee to prove it was a result of an earlier workplace injury.
Beyond the financial and productivity impacts, however, encouraging quick reporting gives employees confidence that a company has their best interest at heart and cultivates a culture of openness and trust. If an employee’s unreported and unaddressed minor injury turns into something more serious, it could mean the difference of being unable to work for a few days or several weeks, impacting team morale.
How Companies Can Encourage Early Reporting
Companies can actively encourage employees to report accidents and injuries by making employee safety a part of regular conversation, streamlining the reporting process to make it as quick and easy as possible, and recognizing or rewarding prompt reporting. All these things lower the barrier for injury reporting and reinforce the message that employee safety isn’t just a set of regulations or requirements, but actually a company priority.
Risk Innovations is a niche wholesaler that has specialized in monoline Workers’ Compensation for 16 years and counting. Our expert brokers understand the unique rules and regulations associated with all 50 states and extend that knowledge to our retail agency partners. No business operation or risk is too challenging for our team to properly protect and insure. Contact us today to speak with one of our experts.