You’ve been hurt on the job. But now your employer or its insurance company is sending you all kinds of papers to sign. In this post, we will explain why you should not sign anything you’ve been given after a work injury.
There are some important things you need to understand about the documents and releases you’re likely to run into after you’re hurt at work. The biggest one is, are you signing away your legal rights without even realizing it?
Don’t sign anything until you know your rights as an injured employee
Company representatives often pester workers who have been hurt about signing various papers and forms. They want you to do this in order to help them. This is not to help you.
In fact, it’s set up to hurt you.
It may seem hard to believe, but employers and insurance companies will take steps to protect their own interests. Their responsibility is to their shareholders, not you. That means you become a liability to them when you get hurt. expense of the employee who has been hurt. By blindly signing any document you’re given, you could be accidentally giving them permission to take your rights away.
To help you make sense of all the documentation you’re receiving about the accident or your injury and what it really means, here is an overview several different types of “forms” adjusters or company representatives will want you to sign – and why you should refuse.
Release forms trick you into signing away your claim forever
A release form is a document that says you release, or “drop” your claims, in exchange for a certain amount of money. If you sign a release, you’ve just signed your claim away forever.
They put a lot of “legalese” and complicated language in the document to confuse you, hoping you will not truly understand what you are signing. Companies routinely include a “low ball” amount of money in these early release forms.
They count on the fact that you will not know the true value of your legal claim, so you won’t know that what they are offering you is patently unfair. If you sign one of these, you will likely be leaving a substantial sum of money on the table. Or worse, the company will include tricky legal language in the release, and you may be left with nothing at all.
Why you should always fill out an accident report and make sure it is accurate
Sometimes the company wants you to fill out an “accident report,” “accident form,” or “diagram.” This is similar to a “recorded statement,” which you know you should never agree to give.
These accident forms are set up in a way to confuse you. They are also designed to get you to document that your accident happened in a way that will suggest fault on anyone other than the actual responsible party.
Never sign an accident report that you don’t agree with.
While you should always report when you are hurt at work, some companies will pull a fast one. We’ve seen companies tell workers they would file the accident report for them, but then either didn’t do it or filed a totally fake one. We’ve also seen companies word accident reports to make it seem as if you are at fault when you weren’t, or pressure witnesses to change their stories.
We recommend that you review any official accident report with a personal injury lawyer before you sign them. If the report is fake, or has any false information in it, we can help you make sure the truth about your injuries is told.
Have an attorney review medical authorization forms
A medical authorization form may seem fairly innocent. But did you know that by signing it, you are giving strangers the right to go get a copy of every single one of your medical records for every doctor you have ever seen in your life? That’s right. The medical authorization form will give your employer and its insurance company access to the records from:
- every doctor
- every medical test
- every medication
- every hospitalization
- every surgery
You’ll be giving them your entire medical history. If you sign the company’s medical authorization form, strangers can go get this medical information and do whatever they want with it, with no regard to your privacy rights. They will dig up information and materials that should never be a part of your claim. Then, they will try to use it against you.
The only medical information they need should be directly related to your work injury. That’s why we recommend not signing any medical authorization forms unless they are reviewed by your attorney. Your attorney will make sure you aren’t giving them the right to violate your privacy and dig through medical records that are none of their business.
Don’t sign an employment records authorization form
By signing this, you are giving strangers the right to dig up your records for every job you have had in your entire life.
This is a huge privacy intrusion, and it’s completely unnecessary in order to process your claim. To add insult to injury, they will find bits and pieces of information in your employment records to use against you when you try to make your injury claim.
We recommend our clients do not sign this authorization until we’ve reviewed it. In many cases, we can make sure the insurance company only gets the specific employment information they need for your case. We can prevent them from getting your entire work history.
What to do if you’re being pressured to sign papers about your work injury
There are also other forms they may try to get you to sign. The most common forms are the ones we’ve listed above. Although the company may tell you that you have to sign a document immediately, the company cannot force you to sign anything.
Instead, it is best to have an attorney review the release or form. We’ll tell you exactly what rights you are giving up by signing the form. Like us, most attorneys will review these kinds of forms free of charge.
All too often, an injured worker will sign a release because the company tells them to. Companies often threaten to withhold treatment and compensation from injured workers if they don’t sign the release. There are two problems:
- The release will most likely prevent you from being able to file a claim. Preventing you from pursuing your legal rights and being compensated for your medical bills and lost wages. The releases are usually written with a bunch of legal words. That means most people won’t realize what rights are being given up because the language in the release is too confusing.
- You don’t legally have to sign anything to get the help you need after getting hurt. Legally, the company can’t bar you from getting the medical treatment you need or from filing a compensation claim. If the company does this, it is a sign that they are not acting in your best interests.
If an adjuster is trying to get you to complete any forms after an accident call us. We will review them for you for free and give you our recommendations.
No one should feel pressured to sign a release, especially without knowing exactly what it means. Get the help you need now. Contact us at 877-724-7800 or fill out a form on our website. We will review your case, any paperwork you’ve been given, and help you make the best decision about what you need to do next.