Workers Compensation

Records to Keep in Your Workers' Compensation Case

By Sachi Barreiro, Attorney, University of San Francisco School of Law
Documenting your time off work, your out-of-pocket expenses, and your physical limitations can help you maximize your workers' comp benefits.

Keeping accurate records and detailed notes about your workers’ compensation case will help the process go smoothly and increase your odds of receiving all benefits to which you are entitled. And, in the event of a dispute with the insurance company, you will be able to offer proof in support of your claim, which can help you secure a fair settlement or prevail at a workers’ compensation hearing.

Mileage & Out-of-Pocket Expenses

Injured workers can get reimbursed through workers’ compensation for their travel expenses to and from medical appointments. The most common form of reimbursement is based on mileage. The reimbursement rate varies from state to state, but many have adopted the IRS’s standard rate (currently $0.56 per mile). You may also be able to get reimbursed for other travel expenses, such as the cost of public transportation, parking, or tolls.

To claim these benefits, you will need to keep track of all mileage to and from doctors’ appointments, physical therapy, chiropractors, independent medical examinations, or any other visits having to do with your medical treatment. Be sure to include the date, the starting address, the destination address, the roundtrip mileage, and any out-of-pocket expenses that you incurred (for example, bridge tolls).

Time Off Work

Workers who are temporarily unable to work because of their injuries can receive temporary disability benefits. These benefits are typically two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage, although they may be higher or lower depending on the state. For example, in New Jersey, workers are entitled to 70% of their average weekly wages; in New Hampshire, the rate is 60% of the worker’s average weekly wage. Partial temporary disability benefits are also available if you're able to return to work, but you’re earning less because you need to work reduced hours or take on light-duty work.

Although your time off work will likely be recorded in your medical records and employer records, it’s a good idea to keep track of these dates in your own notes, too. That way, you can point out any errors in the records and make sure that you receive a benefit check for each week that you’re off work. You can also use these notes to refresh your memory before giving testimony at a deposition or workers’ compensation hearing.

Your Claim

It’s important to keep track of any paperwork that you send or receive relating to your workers’ compensation claim. If the insurance company disputes your claim, you’ll want evidence that you gave your employer notice of your injury and filled out the proper paperwork to receive benefits. Among other things, you should keep copies of:

  • accident reports
  • claim forms
  • doctors’ reports
  • contact information for potential witnesses
  • correspondence with your employer or the insurance company
  • acceptance or denial letter from the insurance company, and
  • forms filed with the state workers’ compensation agency.

You should also keep notes of any telephone conversations you have with the insurance company about your claim. Include the date of the conversation, whom you spoke to, what you were told, and how you followed up on the conversation. For example, if the insurance adjuster calls you to say there is a problem with your paperwork, note what the problem was and how you fixed it.

Pain Journal

It may also be helpful to keep a pain journal, explaining the pain and physical limitations caused by your injuries. Pain journals are often used by injured plaintiffs in personal injury cases, to keep track of their “pain and suffering”: the physical pain, discomfort, and loss of enjoyment of life caused by their injuries. While the workers’ compensation system does not compensate for pain and suffering, a pain journal can still be useful in workers’ comp cases.

In a workers’ comp case, a pain diary can be useful to show the severity of your injuries and how it impacts your ability to work. As you may know, an injured worker can receive a permanent disability award for any permanent impairment caused by the injury. For example, if you no longer have full use of your left arm, your doctor will assign a permanent disability rating, which will translate into a dollar award.

A pain journal is especially helpful if you anticipate that the insurance company will dispute the seriousness of your injury (for example, because you filed your claim late or because you have a preexisting injury to the same body part). A pain journal is also important if there’s the possibility of a third party lawsuit, for instance, if you were injured by a defective product or while on the property of another party. (For more information, see When You Can Sue Outside of Workers' Compensation.)

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