Being injured at work raises tough dilemmas for workers. In some cases employees are not aware that they are entitled to certain forms of relief and assistance or are unfamiliar with the process for getting proper attention and compensation for their injuries. For those with serious injuries that prevent all future employment this can be a devastating blow to family income and a previously steady career.
The law is clear however, that employees injured at work have certain rights that employers must recognize in order to remain legally compliant and avoid liability.
Worker’s Compensation Is Available
Worker’s compensation, also known as workman’s comp, is available to workers injured on the job, but it’s important to keep in mind certain details. Each state has its own laws pertaining to coverage, eligibility and benefits, and generally, it is the responsibility of the injured employee to report injuries and to obtain a timely and valid medical report concerning the injury.
Most worker’s compensation systems provide certain types of coverage for injured workers. For those who are unable to work temporarily due to injuries, worker’s compensation can provide income to support the employee until he or she is able to return to work. The amount of income is usually a designated portion of the worker’s normal wages.
Worker’s compensation can also address the injury itself. Most systems provide payment for medical bills and even payment for vocational rehabilitation. In some instances, assistance with long-terms disabilities resulting from injuries experienced on the job can also come through successful worker’s compensation claims.
What Should I Do If I’m Injured at Work?
The first thing to consider when you’re injured at work is the consequences of not reporting the injury when it first happens. If you choose this route, it is very easy for an employer to simply deny that the injury ever happened or to claim that the injury resulted from an accident outside of work or from an incident unrelated to the workplace. Not reporting an injury makes it extremely difficult to bring a successful worker’s compensation claim.
Thus, the first thing to do when you’ve been injured at work is to report the injury as soon as it occurs. You’ll want to inquire with your HR department or supervisor about the proper way to file an accident or injury report and make sure you comply with all requirements and procedures. Doing so is essential for a successful worker’s compensation claim.
Your employer may also have specific worker’s compensation claim forms available. Be sure that the forms are completed and filed on time. Many states have filing deadlines, so check with your state worker’s compensation office to make sure you have not exceeded time limits.
You’ll also want to follow up with key contacts after the report has been filed to ensure that the proper administrators received the report. It will be your employer’s responsibility to submit your filings and paperwork to an insurance carrier who will take on your claim, so proper follow up is key. Finally, it is always wise to keep a copy of the report and claim for yourself before submitting it and to document your actions, keeping careful notes of each detail.
For union members, make sure union officials are informed of your injury as well. If your union has a form for filing an accident or injury report, use it to ensure compliance with rules and regulations. Also, make sure to identify co-workers who may have witnessed the accident, and acquire their assistance with statements or signatures, if necessary.
Trips to the Doctor for Your Medical Report
Your visit to the doctor after being injured at work is extremely important. Your medical report will greatly influence the outcome of your claim, so it’s important to follow correct procedure and be aware of your rights.
If your injury requires immediate medical attention, it is important to pursue it as soon as possible. When this is not the case, most state systems require that you see a doctor who belongs to specially designated worker’s compensation networks. In some instances, it is possible to see your own doctor. Again, checking your state worker’s compensation laws will be helpful here.
Keep in mind that worker’s compensation doctors are usually paid for by employers. This means that some may have incentive to downplay workplace injuries or report them as pre-existing conditions. Though this is not always the case, it is important to be aware going forward.
What if My Employer Disputes My Worker’s Compensation Claim?
If your employer willingly submits your paperwork and is cooperative during the process of filing a worker’s compensation claim, then all should go smoothly. However, some employers are reluctant to recognize claims due to the expenses involved in addressing them. When employers are non-cooperative, it may help to put in a call to your state worker’s compensation office.
Also, capable legal representation will be helpful. The usual scenario is that worker’s compensation benefits are provided in exchange for an employee’s agreement not to sue an employer for damages. However, when a worker feels that a claim is being handled unfairly or not all, he or she should seek legal counsel as soon as possible.
It is also a possibility that a worker’s compensation claim will be denied for any one of a number of reasons. The most common is that the claim was not filed in a timely manner, but there are other reasons for claim denials as well. An employer may dispute the details about the injury or attempt to assert that the injury did not occur at work or is non-work related. Also, the injury may not be covered under state laws.
Employees have a right to appeal claim denials. Appeals are typically heard by an administrative law judge in an administrative court rather than a civil court of law. Employees will be required to submit evidence and documentation pertaining to the reason for appeal. Appeals must be filed in a timely manner, and employees should note specific procedures and regulations for filing the appeal which should be outlined in their claim denial letter.
Proper Representation is Essential
When you’ve been injured at work proper legal representation is essential and could even be crucial to filing a successful claim or appealing a claim denial. The appeal process is vigourous and can be complicated. The expertise of a qualified employment law attorney could prove invaluable for getting the justice you deserve in your worker’s compensation claim.