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Can You Submit a Workers Compensation Claim After Leaving Your Job?

Posted on November 5, 2020 | Wage & Hour Laws,Workers Compensation,Workplace Discrimination,Wrongful Termination

In the vast majority of cases, workers who experience injuries on the job file a claim for California workers’ compensation shortly after the injury occurs. However, what happens if you are terminated, laid off, or leave your job before submitting your workers’ compensation claim? Unfortunately, filing after ending your employment can affect your ability to receive benefits.

Post Termination Defense

If you file a workers’ compensation claim after being fired or notified that you are fired or laid off, your employer may be able to deny workers’ compensation benefits. This rule is known as the post-termination defense, as it was developed to protect employers from their former employees. In essence, the post-termination defense prevents retaliation via false workers’ compensation claims after a layoff or termination.

For example, suppose you are laid off from your job. The next day, you file a workers’ compensation claim for an injury you claim you received mere days before termination. In most cases, the insurance company will initially deny your claim to protect your employer from potential retaliatory actions.

Possible Exceptions to the Post Termination Defense

Of course, many workers’ compensation claims filed after employment has ended are valid. If your former employer utilizes the post-termination defense, how can you prove you experienced a valid injury while at work? You may be able to receive benefits if you can show one of the following exceptions:

  1. Your employer knew about your injury before your termination. As a rule, it is extremely important to notify your employer immediately when you experience a workplace injury. While notifying your employer in writing is usually the best route, since you begin a paper trail of your injury, you can also verbally notify an immediate supervisor. However, without dated evidence of notification, a decision may come down to your credibility versus your employer’s credibility. Unless you can prove your first opportunity to notify your employer of your injury did not take place until after termination, it is generally too late to notify an employer once you are terminated.
  2. You have previous medical records. If you have medical records related to the injury and dated before your termination, you may be able to claim workers’ compensation benefits. Records do not need to be from a California workers’ compensation physician but can be from any physician, hospital, or urgent care facility. Records are subject to utilization review, as they are not considered official workers’ compensation medical records and are obtained before you filed your claim.
  3. You experienced a specific injury after notification of termination but before your last day. A specific injury is a single event that requires medical treatment or requires disability. If you experienced a specific injury after being notified of your termination and before employment ends, you can make a workers’ compensation claim provided you notify your employer before your last day of work. However, you will not receive compensation for any specific injury that occurs before your last day of work if you fail to notify your employer.
  4. You experienced cumulative trauma. Cumulative trauma is defined as the sum of a series of repeated events that cause an occupational injury or disability. Suppose you began the work that caused a cumulative trauma injury before termination but were not aware it caused an injury until after termination. In that case, your employer cannot use the post-termination defense. However, if you were aware the work was causing an injury and did not inform your employer, the post-termination defense is still invalid; you may not be able to file a claim.

What If You Need to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim After Your Employment Ends?

Injured workers in California should always file a workers’ compensation claim, even if it occurs after employment ends. If you quit your job (versus being fired or laid off), post-termination defense does not apply since it is unlikely you are retaliating against your employer. If you were terminated or laid off, your employer will claim the post-termination defense – but if one of the above exceptions applies to you, you can still receive benefits.

In addition, some insurance companies regularly deny claims from former workers due to incorrect or misleading post-termination defenses. Alternatively, a dishonest employer may attempt to fire a worker in retaliation for reporting a job-related injury or may lie about receiving notification of a workers’ compensation injury prior to termination. The exceptions listed above were created to protect employees in these situations and help you pursue a valid workers’ compensation claim.

Seek Help from a California Workers’ Compensation Attorney

If you believe you have a valid California workers’ compensation claim but must file after your employment ends, you can benefit from a Los Angeles employment attorney’s guidance. For valuable insight into workers’ compensation laws and the validity of your claim, contact the Law Office of Omid Nosrati to schedule a consultation.

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