We were recently asked if a person could file for workers’ compensation even if they have already been fired or laid off by the company at the time they wished to file. It’s an interesting question, and it’s one we’ll tackle in this blog.
Let’s start with an example. Let’s say a secretary has been working at a consulting firm for 27 years. Every once in awhile she experiences mild pain or discomfort in her hands, but she pushes through it the best that she can. One day her boss tells her that due to declining business, they have to let her go. One month after she is laid off, her hand pain becomes worse and causes daily problems. She goes to the doctor where she is diagnosed with carpal tunnel, and her doctor says her years as a secretary likely contributed to the condition. Can she file for workers’ compensation, or is she out of luck because she no longer is employed the the consulting firm?
Cumulative Trauma Injuries
The woman in the above example would be able to file for workers’ compensation even though she is no longer employed by the company. That’s because carpal tunnel injuries and other types of injuries caused by repetitive motion are considered cumulative trauma injuries under Minnesota law.
By definition, cumulative trauma injuries develop slowly over time, so it’s not uncommon for them to become symptomatic after a person has left a job. As long as your doctor or an independent medical examiner believes that your injuries were partly caused by your work duties, you should still be able to file for workers’ compensation benefits.
However, if you had shoulder pain while working, were laid off, then dislocated your shoulder while skiing, odds are you won’t be able to win a valid claim because it would be hard to prove that your job and not the skiing accident is contributing to your pain, even though you were experiencing pain at your job. This is why it’s important to speak up at the first sign of injury.
Keys To Winning
If you want to win a workers’ compensation claim after you’ve been fired or laid off by your employer, the best thing you can do to ensure you have the best chance of earning a claim is to hire an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Insurance companies are notoriously picky about which claims they validate, and they’ll look for any reason to deny your claim. They could see your claim as an attempt to retaliate at your employer for letting you go, and could deny your claim on this basis.
However, if you have an attorney on your side, you’ll know the best process for proving your injuries were a result of your previous employment. Besides explaining what you need to do, your lawyer will put together a strong argument to prove that you are in the right if the case goes to mediation or before a judge. Listen to your attorney and do as they ask, and odds are you’ll be able to secure a valid claim even though you are no longer employed by that company.
If you are considering filing a claim against a former employer, reach out to Dean Margolis to learn what he can do for you.