Post-termination defense is often used by workers’ compensation claims administrators to deny workers’ comp benefits. These claim denials state that you are not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits because you no longer work for your employer. Fortunately, you still have options if you were injured on the job but didn’t file your claim until after you were terminated. A post-termination claim allows you to pursue workers’ comp benefits to cover medical costs, temporary disability, permanent disability, and supplemental job displacement benefits (SJDB). To pursue a post-termination claim for continuous trauma, it’s important to understand how continuous trauma applies to workers’ compensation law.
How is Continuous Trauma Defined in Workers’ Compensation Law?
Continuous trauma, also called cumulative trauma, is a work-related injury or illness that occurs over time. Unlike more easily defined “specific injuries,” continuous trauma is caused by repetitive or frequent physical or mental stress over time. Ongoing work stress, repeated motions, or exposure to certain conditions can create traumatic injuries or illnesses that get worse over time.Continuous trauma includes psychological injury caused by workplace conditions or occurrences. If you pursue workers’ compensation benefits because of continuous trauma, whether physical or psychological, you must be able to prove that the injury or disability was predominantly caused by work events, activities, or conditions.
Examples of Continuous Trauma in the Workplace
Unlike other workers’ compensation claims, a continuous trauma post-termination claim does not require you to report the injury before your job termination date. For example, you may learn after your termination that you have carpal tunnel syndrome, a repetitive stress injury characterized by pain, weakness, and numbness in the hands, wrists, and forearms.If your job activities required you to repeatedly flex your wrists over a long period, your carpal tunnel syndrome could be attributed to your employment. Carpal tunnel is a debilitating condition that often requires surgery and long-term medical care. It can also cause permanent disability, limiting your ability to perform certain current and future work activities. This could subsequently affect your ability to find a position in your current career field. In this case, although the carpal tunnel diagnosis came after your termination, it can be clearly linked to your work. You could therefore seek workers’ compensation benefits through a post-termination claim for continuous trauma. Other continuous injuries from workplace conditions or events include:
- Tendonitis, bursitis, and ganglion cysts
- Back pain and spinal injuries
- Arthritis, joint pain, and reduced mobility
- Impaired hearing or vision
- Lung conditions from extended exposure to smoke, fumes, or particles
- Cancer from exposure to asbestos and other dangerous substances
- Heart problems due to workplace stress
- Respiratory and sinus issues from mold or other unhealthy workplace conditions
Continuous injuries can occur on any part of the body and aren’t limited to physical injury. Repeated psychological trauma or stress can cause long-term psychological conditions like anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress that you can attribute to job conditions.
What is a Post-Termination Claim for Continuous Trauma?
In most cases, workers’ compensation claims aren’t accepted when filed after your employment was terminated. However, there are exceptions if you:
- Reported your injury to your employer before termination
- Reported your injury after you were informed of your termination but before your last day of work
- Sought treatment for a work-related injury or illness before termination
- Discovered continuous injuries after you were terminated that were caused by workplace activities or conditions
For a continuous trauma post-termination claim, your goal is to prove your repetitive tasks or exposure to certain circumstances directly and substantially contributed to your illness, injury, or disability.
What is the Process for a Post-Termination Claim for Continuous Trauma?
Workers’ compensation claims must be submitted within one year of the date of a workplace injury. For continuous injuries, the time frame is one year from the date you noticed or should reasonably have known about a work injury or disability. To file your post-termination claim for continuous trauma, you should:
Notify Your Employer or Former Employer
Your first step is to notify your employer or former employer within 30 days of the time you discovered your continuous trauma injury. Even if you no longer work for them, you have a right to file a workers’ compensation claim for work-related injuries.
Submit a Workers’ Compensation Claim Form
Within one day of receiving your notification, your employer must send you a workers’ compensation claim form. Complete the form and return it to your employer for submission to their workers’ compensation insurance. Once you return the form, the workers’ compensation claim administrator has 90 days to approve or deny your claim.
See a Doctor From an Approved Medical Provider Network
Your employer may furnish you with a preferred provider for workers’ compensation claims. It is wise to see this doctor for your initial visit, but you can switch to another doctor in the Department of Workers’ Compensation’s approved medical provider network (MPN) for the rest of your appointments. If you disagree with the initial doctor’s diagnosis, you can also ask for second or third opinions within the MPN or request an independent medical review.
Contact a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
The outcome of your case determines both your eligibility for benefits and the value of the benefits you receive. An employment attorney who handles workers’ compensation cases can help you meet filing deadlines, compile evidence, and complete critical documentation. You would not want a simple mistake to cost you the benefits you need.
Arrange a Free Consultation With a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
If you discovered a continuous trauma workplace injury after you were terminated, you can still pursue a post-termination workers’ compensation claim. To learn how post-termination claims for continuous trauma work in workers’ compensation law, contact KJT Law Group online or call (818) 507-8525 for a free consultation. Our team of committed employment attorneys can examine your case and help you understand your legal rights for workers’ compensation claims.