Workplace Injury? What to Do If You’re Hurt at Work
If you work in a high-risk profession, you’re probably already aware that on-the-job injuries are a constant concern. In 2014, the Bureau of Labor Statistics cited 916,440 on-the-job, lost-time injuries across the United States. While many injuries can be prevented through proper training and safety awareness, accidents to happen and many people are hurt at work.
If you’re hurt at work, you’re probably entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation is insurance provided by your employer to cover any work-related injuries. This can include medical bills, paid time off work and even disability settlements for more serious injuries.
Workers’ compensation laws vary by state, but here are eight general things you should do if you ever find yourself involved in a work-related accident:
When Hurt at Work Report Your Injury Immediately
Always report any work related injury or occupational illness immediately. Even if it seems insignificant at the time, you never know when something minor may turn out to be more serious than you think. By reporting it immediately, your employer has a record of the injury, and if it does require treatment later, you’ve already recorded the fact that it happened at work.
Most states have a statute of limitations for reporting claims. These can vary from 30 days up to two years, depending on the state. If you fail to report your claim within that time frame, you could lose your rights to any benefits.
Be Sure Your Employer Completes a First Report of Injury
When ever you are hurt at work, your employer is required to fill out paperwork and report your injury to their insurance carrier. This will include all of your information, including wages (in case you are taken off work by the doctor), the details of what happened and your injury.
Be sure your employer reports your injury correctly, too, such as what part of the body is affected, which side and what the injury is. An incorrect report could have negative effects on your claim if there is any question or litigation at a later date.
Find out What Doctor You Can See
Unless it’s an absolute emergency, don’t try to see a doctor without checking with your employer first. Many states require you to see a doctor designated by your employer for workers’ compensation claims, and you may have to pay for the visit if you take it upon yourself to choose a physician.
If it’s an emergency and no one is available to direct you, go to the emergency room. Then, report what happened to your employer as soon as possible. Just remember, paper cuts probably aren’t an emergency, and the insurance company may be able to deny the bill if they decide it did not pose an immediate danger to your well-being.
Cooperate Fully With the Doctor
When you see the doctor, it’s important to give them an accurate description of what happened and what injuries you sustained. Even if it seems insignificant, report any pain or other issues in your first visit. Later care may be determined by the injuries you reported.
Answer all questions about past and current conditions you may have as well. This will be important to help your doctor determine the extent of the work-related injury, and if any discrepancies arise later, it could be cause for the insurance company to deny or limit your claim.
Additionally, always follow your doctor’s instructions. If your doctor prescribes bed rest, a ski trip to Tahoe while you’re off work could land you in a lot of hot water.
Get Your Work Status
After being hurt at work, the doctor will determine whether you can return to work, and if so, in what capacity. If they decide you cannot do your regular job, they may give you a list of limitations. Be sure to get these in writing and take them back to your employer.
Your work status will probably be one of three things:
- Release back to work full duty
- Release back to work light duty or with restrictions
- Completely off work
If the doctor allows you to return to work on light duty, your employer will determine if they can accommodate your restrictions.
If your company does not have work for you or if your doctor takes you off work, you may be entitled to partial pay while you are off. Most states have a waiting period, usually three to seven days, which you must be off before they begin paying you. These may or may not have to be consecutive days depending on the state.
Once you’ve fulfilled the waiting period, the insurance carrier will reimburse your lost wages, usually at a rate of about two-thirds your regular pay. Some states may also have a retroactive payment where they pick up the waiting period days if you are off work for an extended time.
Develop a Good Relationship With Your Claims Adjuster
Within 24 hours of your injury, you should receive a call from your claims adjuster. This is the person who will be monitoring your claim. They will ask you questions to be sure they have all the details and communicate with your doctors throughout your treatment. They will also handle any checks you might be entitled to if you are taken off work.
Developing a good relationship with your adjuster will help your claim proceed smoothly. However, remember that they do work for the insurance company and not you. Always report any changes in work status or concerns with your treatment immediately so your adjuster can keep your claim up to date and be sure you are receiving proper care and benefits.
Closing Your Claim
Your treatment will continue until your doctor determines you are at what is referred to as Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). At that time, they will either release you fully or determine an impairment rating. If the doctor assigns a permanent impairment, you will be awarded a monetary settlement based on a pre-determined formula for the injury.
Retaining an Attorney
For more serious injuries, or when disputes arise with the insurance company, some people choose to retain an attorney. An attorney can be invaluable in many cases to help guide you and protect your interests, but it’s also important to remember that their end goal is to make money — if you receive a settlement, you will be sharing a good chunk of it with them.
Dealing with pain from your injury, the possibility of time off work and the red tape that goes along with a workers’ compensation claim can be stressful. But being informed, prepared and if necessary, retaining the help of a good attorney can help you navigate your way through the confusing system to bring you a timely, satisfactory resolution. While being hurt at work isn’t pleasant for anyone, stay focused on the future. Stay positive. And work towards the best outcome possible.