How long does a workers’ compensation claim stay on your file?

If you’ve been injured on the job in the past and have filed a workers’ compensation claim, you are familiar with the treatment, recovery, and paperwork involved. Depending on the circumstances and severity of your injury, and the geographic location of your workplace, certain laws may apply to your situation. If you happened to have to hire legal representation to receive your benefits, you will likely have to resolve a dispute with your employer. The question now is, does the claim remain on your “record” and will it adversely affect future employment?

It’s natural to feel concerned, as a potential employer may consider such a claim in a number of ways:

  • A claim can put you in a less favorable light if you measure up to candidates who have not been injured. An employer who had a bad experience with one worker and one claim may be hesitant to risk another, even if you are reasonably healthy.
  • Notification of a claim may lead others to think that you are not physically capable of the job for which you have applied. This may make sense if your injury was serious.

Your “record” will always show that you made a claim. Insurance companies use a computer database capable of storing the basic data of your claim, and that database is never deleted. Only insurers have access to this information.

Potential employers can find out about your claim if you (1) tell them; (2) check references and are informed; or (3) obtain, with your consent, prior medical records. Generally, when physical condition is part of obtaining the job, a prospective employer can request an authorization allowing them to obtain your past medical records. I would advise them who their GP or primary care physician is and any other medical care they have received. The requested period may vary, but five years is the norm. Therefore, if your claim was 15 years ago, it is highly unlikely that it will appear.

What should you do?

The thought that you might be turned away from a job based on a previous Workers’ Compensation case may worry you, but realistically, unless you are still injured and unable to perform the new job, there is probably no reason to worry.

If you are asked this in a job application, my advice is to be honest. When you stay honest about your story, you have a better chance of advancing your efforts.