Workers Compensation

Can I File a Workers’ Comp Claim After I’ve Left My Job?

By Sachi Barreiro, Attorney, University of San Francisco School of Law
Learn what to do if you were laid off or fired before you could file a workers' comp claim.

Question

For the past five years, I worked as a typist for a company that provides transcribing services. I was recently laid off because of a decline in business. In the last few weeks, I started to have pain, numbness, and tingling in both of my hands. My doctor has diagnosed me with carpal tunnel. Because I don’t type for my new job or do any other repetitive activities involving my hands, I’m pretty sure it was caused by my last job. Can I file a workers’ compensation claim even though I don’t work there anymore?

Answer

Yes, you can still file a workers’ comp claim. Carpal tunnel, and other injuries caused by repetitive motions at work, are called cumulative trauma injuries. Because cumulative trauma injuries develop slowly over time, it’s not uncommon for symptoms to appear shortly after a worker has left a job. As long as it’s clear that the injury was caused by your work duties, and not anything that’s happened since you left your job, you will typically still be eligible for benefits.

However, you should expect an uphill battle with your employer’s insurance company. Insurance companies are often suspicious of claims that are filed after a worker is laid off or fired. It may look like you’re trying to get back at your employer, or it may look like you’re trying to make an easy buck instead of looking for a new job. So don’t be too surprised if your claim is denied and the insurance company puts up a fight.

But, there are a few things that you can do to help support your claim. First, you should notify your employer of your injury immediately and ask for any paperwork that you need to complete to make a formal claim. Second, you should get your doctor’s opinion as to whether the carpal tunnel was most likely caused by your work-related typing. Finally, you may want to consult with a workers’ compensation attorney. A lawyer will be able to anticipate arguments from the insurance company, gather evidence to show that your injury is related to work, and help you get a second medical opinion from another doctor, if necessary. For more on how a lawyer can help, see What to Expect From Your Workers' Compensation Lawyer.

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