Imagine you are at work on a Friday afternoon. You are eager to start the weekend, and people are starting to pack up and head home. As you head to the bathroom, you slip and fall. You're not sure, but you think you might be hurt.
You might feel like you should wait and see if you get better over the weekend and then worry about reporting the accident if necessary. However, there are several reasons why you should report your accident as soon as it happens and not wait until the following Monday.
- Your employer might argue your injury happened away from work. If you wait until Monday (or later) to report your accident, you leave room for questions about whether your injury occurred at work. This is especially true with injuries stemming from accidents that can happen anywhere, such as falls. Your employer may argue that if your injury had happened at work, you would have reported it on Friday.
- Your employee handbook may require immediate notification. Many employers have a policy requiring you to notify your supervisor immediately after an on-the-job injury. Your employee handbook very likely says something like, "If you are injured at work, you must notify your employer immediately." Your employer will point to this policy if you wait to report the injury. You may face workplace penalties for failing to comply with company reporting requirements, and your claim may be denied if your employer can criticize you for not following their policy. The safest thing to do is to follow your employer's policy and give them a fair and reasonable opportunity to investigate the claim.
- Waiting too long could make you ineligible for benefits. To be eligible for workers' compensation benefits in Illinois, you must inform your employer of your injuries within 45 days, with some exceptions. However, the safest route is always to give your employer immediate notice because, as discussed above, most employers require it. Chances are that if you wait even a week or two, let alone 45 days, your claim may be denied.
- Evidence may no longer be available. Waiting even a day or two to report an accident can lead to loss of critical evidence. Memories fade, and things like puddles, unstable stacks of boxes and walkway obstructions may be gone the next day. Without these pieces of evidence, the investigation into the accident can be more difficult and time-consuming. The longer you wait to report the accident, then more likely the scene will be completely different. In addition to reporting your accident to your employer, try to take photos of the scene, including any hazards that could have caused or contributed to your injury.
For these and other reasons, workers should report an accident or work-related injury to an employer as soon as possible. You do not have to wait to see your doctor, and you should not assume that you must wait a certain number of days before reporting the accident.
After you report the accident, you can examine your options for workers' compensation benefits. Again, there is a clock ticking when it comes to applying for these benefits, so it is generally best to act sooner, rather than later.
What if an accident happens after hours?
What happens if an accident happens after everyone has left for the weekend, or if you are injured while working out of town and can't get a hold of anyone at your home office?
You should always try to communicate with someone at your office to report your injury. You may need to leave a voicemail, text your supervisor or call human resources. If your company offers a hotline where you can call in if you aren't available for work, you can try calling that number. Do whatever you can to try to report it; it is important to be able to show that you reported the injury right after it occurred.