Many working men and women in New York believe that Workers’ Compensation is an automatic benefit. They become understandably frustrated when that proves not to be true, and they are forced to wait for a weekly benefit check and for proper medical treatment.

Just as an injured worker has the right to CLAIM benefits, so his employer’s insurance company has the right to contest those benefits.

To make sure your workers’ compensation case goes as smoothly as possible, it is important to follow just a few basic but very serious rules. The first is the rule of notice.

Notice means that you must alert your employer that you had an accident, as soon as possible after the accident, but not more than thirty days later. You must give your employer enough information so that he and his insurance company can investigate–but here the problem begins, and here is where your shop steward and union rep or organizer can play a serious part in protecting you.

The report that you make to your employer and union rep (shop steward), that he will then also make part of your file, is discoverable both at the Workers’ Compensation Board and also in civil court if you have a personal injury/third party/negligence case that you can also bring.

For this reason, you must be truthful and accurate–but too much information is not necessary and is often harmful. Remember, the insurance company and its investigators and lawyers are generally not merely looking for the truth–they are looking for ways to avoid paying your rightful benefits.

Therefore, give notice as soon as possible after your accident, and make sure that you give only the basics: time, day, place, and a brief description. If you or your shop steward or union rep or organizer are then asked to fill in more information in your description, you should first consult a lawyer before volunteering any further facts.