What to Do If You Are Injured at Work
If you are injured on the job, you are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. The workers’ compensation laws vary by state, but below are some basic steps you should take to maximize the compensation you receive for your injuries and medical treatment regardless of where you’re located.
Get Medical Help
The first thing you should do when sustaining any type of injury on the job is to seek appropriate medical attention and treatment for your injury. The faster you seek medical attention, the more likely it is that you will be able to minimize the effects of the injury and recover quickly. Seeking immediate medical attention can also help with a workers’ compensation claim since you will be able to demonstrate that you sought medical help at the time of the workplace accident. If you delay seeking medical treatment, it might raise questions about when your injury occurred or whether it is related to an on-the-job accident.
In some states, unless it is an emergency, you will want to confirm that the medical provider is authorized to provide you with medical care for a workplace injury – some states require medical personnel to be authorized by the state’s workers’ compensation board to provide medical treatment, and others require that you see a doctor chosen by your employer for workplace injuries.
Notify Your Supervisor or Employer
Report the accident, your injury, and how it happened to your employer and/or supervisor as soon as possible—preferably in writing. If you do not report your accident in a timely manner, some states may deny you workers’ compensation benefits injuries sustained. Many states require that you notify your employer within days of the accident to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits.
In some cases, your injury or accident may not be immediately apparent. For example, you may only discover that you have a disease related to your workplace as a result of ingesting harmful chemicals or particles years after you were exposed to them. In many states, an exception is made for these kinds of occupational diseases, and you are entitled to benefits as long as you report the issue within a certain time from the date you knew or should have known about the issue.
Complete Necessary Claims Forms
When you report your injury to your employer, you should be provided with a claim form to apply for workers’ compensation benefits. If you are not provided with this form, you should contact your state’s workers’ compensation office immediately to determine what forms need to be completed, how to obtain those forms, and where they should be sent upon completion. Each state’s forms and requirements vary. Keep a copy of the signed and dated form for your records.
Hire a Qualified Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Your employer or its insurance company may seek to limit your workers’ compensation benefits by disputing your injury, its impact on your health, and/ or your ability to work. In that regard, you may want to hire a qualified workers’ compensation attorney to protect your rights and help you gather evidence to prove your accident, the injuries you sustained, the necessity for medical treatment, and the length or permanency of your disability. Having an attorney is especially important if your employer is contesting any elements of your workers’ compensation claim.
If your employer claims they do not have workers’ compensation insurance, your state will likely have a fund from which they will pay you workers’ compensation benefits, and you may also be entitled to bring an action against your employer. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer in your state can help you in both instances.
An attorney may also help you to determine whether your accident or injury was the result of negligence of a third party who is not your employer. For example, if your injury occurred because of a defective piece of equipment or another person’s negligence, you may be entitled to additional compensation from the negligent party for your injuries. A qualified workers’ compensation lawyer can also help you bring claims against a third party.
Notably, most workers’ compensation lawyers work on a “contingency fee” basis—meaning that you pay them nothing up front and they only get paid a portion of any recovery if they recover damages for you. This is another reason that you should strongly consider hiring a lawyer if you have been injured in an incident at work.
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