In every occupation and industry, employees risk injury whether it is trauma from an accident, job related cumulative stress, or an occupational disease. Job related injuries happen every day. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, there were over 3.5 million cases in 2019, and workers lost time from work in over 1.1 million cases because of an injury on the job. The CDC estimates there are 2.5 million Emergency Room visits annually because of on the job injuries.
What should you do if you sustained an injury because of your job? Do you know the right steps to take?
In the event you’ve experienced a job injury, it can be helpful to know what to do. So, we wanted to share some steps that you can take if you’ve been injured at work.
Report Your Job Injury to Your Supervisor
The first thing you want to do if you have a job injury is to immediately notify your supervisor or a co-worker if possible. This first communication is one of the most important steps in an injury claim. Then seek immediate medical attention if you need it.
The next thing you want to do is to make sure that the necessary injury report is prepared. The requirements vary from state to state and from employer to employer.
You want to make sure that you meet your state’s deadline for filing your claim for your job related injury. If you miss your deadline, you could lose your legal right to receive worker’s compensation benefits from your employer.
Whether the initial claim information is given in an interview with HR, a recorded statement with an insurance adjuster, or on a form, generally the information will include the date and time the job injury occurred, what the injury is, and details about how the injury was caused by performing job duties. Again, you should complete this step promptly so that you do not miss your state’s statute of limitations for filing or delay your receipt of benefits.
In these situations, you want to use your best judgment. If your job injury requires immediate attention, seek the help of a medical professional and leave the paperwork for later.
Incorrect information is often given out by employers, insurance companies, co-workers, family, and friends, and sometimes even by state employees or inexperienced lawyers. If you are unsure about what to do or say when reporting your injury, speak with an attorney experienced in worker’s compensation claims.
When to See a Doctor
For anything other than a minor injury that only requires first aid treatment, see a qualified medical provider as soon as you can. When you go to see a doctor for a workplace injury, there are a few things you should keep in mind.
When it comes to worker’s compensation claims, doctors have two primary responsibilities. First, they examine, diagnose, and document the cause of a job related injury. Second, a doctor will treat the injury, make referrals for diagnostic tests or to specialists, and help you recover from the job injury.
You have the right to choose the doctor that you see. Sometimes, your employer may direct you to see a doctor that they prefer or that works with their insurance company.
You are not legally obligated to get treatment the doctor your employer or their insurance company tells you to go to. Choosing the right doctor is one of the most important decisions you will make.
It is important to understand your employer’s insurance company is paid by your employer, and their insurance company pays the doctor they prefer you to see. As a result, their doctor may not be on your side. In some cases, the business relationship is so close that there could be a conflict of interest.
It is important to understand that a doctor chosen by your employer may want to maintain a stream of business with your employer. Typically, these are doctors at occupational medicine, urgent care, and acute care facilities, and some large employers continue to keep company doctors and nurses on staff for on the job injuries.
Income may motivate their doctor to diminish the seriousness of your injuries. For instance, if you have a neck injury, the doctor may diagnose a muscle strain rather than ordering an MRI to see if you have a herniated disc. If the treating physician suspiciously asks speculating questions about a previous neck and back injury, you would want to take note of that.
You always should be truthful and as thorough as possible. Anything the doctor reports will affect your injury benefits. It can be helpful to get a second opinion or transfer your care to a different physician.
Filing A Worker’s Compensation Claim
After you have seen a doctor, you want to file your worker’s compensation claim. If your employer already knows about the injury, they may have already filed all the necessary paperwork to start your claim.
If not, your employer should be able to provide you with a state claim form upon your request. You must complete the state claim form to receive any type of compensation. In addition, some employers have their own incident form. This is not a substitute for the state claim form
In most states, employers are required to have forms that will start the process or can easily obtain them. Hospitals and doctors that treat you are required to complete forms for on the job injuries. You should be given these forms immediately.
If you are not provided with the necessary forms, contact the Workers’ Compensation Office in your state. You can find this information on your state governments’ agency page.
When you are filling out the form to start a claim, only complete the sections titled “Employee.” Also, it is very important to sign the claims form, date it, and keep a copy.
When filling out forms or questionnaires, it is very important to be clear about how your injury is the result of how you performed your job.
Once you have completed the form, return it to your employer. Filing your claim quickly can help reduce any delays in your benefits.
This form can be returned in person or by mail. If you mail your claim form, it is recommended to use certified mail with a delivery receipt. When your employer receives your form, they will complete the section labeled “Employer.” Then they will send the form to the state and their workers’ compensation insurance company.
After a claim is filed, the deadline for the employer or their insurance company to respond varies from state to state. Typically, you will be contacted receive directly by your employer’s insurance company within a few days. If you do not receive a letter or telephone call about your claim, you can call the Worker’s Compensation Office in your state or call the insurance company directly to check on the status.
Understanding Your Rights
As an injured employee, you have important rights. While each state is different, understanding your rights can make filing an injury claim much easier. You do have a right to file a worker’s compensation claim for traumatic injuries, repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome, and occupational diseases.
It is your right to see a doctor and to seek medical treatment. If your job injury or illness causes you to be unable to return to work, you have the right to be compensated for your disability.
This includes if you are permanently, temporarily, or partially unable to return to work. Under state and federal laws, you may also have the right to return to your job if you are released by your physician. You have a right to a hearing if you do not agree with decisions made by your employer or their insurance company.
It is your right to be represented by an injury attorney throughout the claims process.
When To Speak To A Lawyer
There are many important reasons to speak with an experienced worker’s compensation injury lawyer. At the beginning of a claim, if your employer is uncooperative speak with an attorney or contact your state.
By law, workers are supposed to be covered for on the job injuries, usually through an employer’s worker’s compensation insurance. However, some employers do not maintain coverage, even though it is illegal. In addition, if there is no employer-employee relationship, there is no right to worker’s compensation benefits. For example, independent contractors and some gig economy employees would not qualify for worker’s compensation benefits. If there is a dispute about coverage, obtain legal advice
You also want to contact a lawyer if you have a severe or permanent injury, especially one that prevents you from returning to your regular occupation. A lawyer can help you understand your case and your rights. They can walk you through the entire process.
If you have to go to a hearing for your workers’ compensation claim, contact a lawyer.
Attorneys at Borofsky, Amodeo-Vickery & Bandazian, P.A., focus on job related injury claims and will stand by you throughout your claim from start to finish.
What Happens Next?
Being injured in a job can be an intimidating situation. Yet, you should know that you do have options. You have the right to make choices that are in your best interests.
If you’ve experienced an injury on the job, we’re here to help. Contact us now to learn more about your legal rights. Let our dedicated team of lawyers work hard on your behalf to get the compensation you deserve!