Occupational injuries occur every day on work sites from quiet offices to buzzing construction sites. While some work sites are safer than others, no work site is immune to occupational hazards and the potential for illness or injury. According to 2007 OSHA statistics, there were 4 million U.S. Worker injuries, 5,600 of which were fatalities. For those that are injured at work, the first few steps can be a confusing and frightening process.
Your employer is legally bound to not discriminate against or terminate you simply because you’ve filed a workers’ compensation claim. In fact, in most cases, they can even be required to reasonably accommodate you should your injury make it impossible for you to physically complete your previous roles.
Many workers don’t understand their rights and fear repercussions such as being demoted or fired if they report a workplace injury to an employer. Safety-based incentive reward programs are also a factor, as some fear losing rewards for both themselves and coworkers if they report an injury. In all reality it’s important to not let fear hold you back from doing what’s right. Remember the importance of reporting workplace injuries and reporting them quickly.
It’s vital that you know how to proceed after being injured at work to protect your right to worker’s compensation, which is an insurance that provides medical care and wage replacement to workers injured on the job and benefits to survivors of employees killed on the job.
Many non-life threatening injuries can become worse in the days or weeks following an accident. You feel a pop in your back, for example. It hurts a little, but you can still power through to get your job done for a few days or weeks. When the pain finally makes you go to the doctor, you find out you have a back injury that requires costly surgery to repair. If you didn’t report this injury immediately, you could’ve harmed your workers’ compensation claim to cover your injury.
Your first step is to immediately verbally report the injury to your supervisor. If your injury doesn’t require emergency medical attention, your employer will give you a workers’ compensation form to complete immediately and then direct you to seek medical attention. If your injury does require emergency medical treatment, you can fill out the form at the hospital or doctor’s office.
Always submit a written notification of your injury to your employer as soon as you can, including the date, time, circumstances, and witnesses to the injury.
Keep a copy of your statement, any incident and accident forms you complete, and the workers’ compensation form. You should receive a copy of the fully completed form (with the employer’s portion completed) in the mail.
Life-threatening injuries will require immediate medical care from first responders and a hospital. It’s fairly straightforward. Where workers’ compensation gets convoluted is in non-emergency medical care and the aftercare of emergencies for an injured worker.
Some employers have an on-site health practitioner. The practitioner will evaluate your injury and advise you if you need further medical attention from a hospital or outside physician. If you disagree you can request to be seen by an outside doctor.
Now, here’s the tricky part. Workers’ comp law for non-federal employees is mandated by the state, and it varies from state to state as to the specific regulations and rules that apply to you and your employer.
In most states, you can’t just go see your own primary care physician. You’ll be referred to a physician recruited and approved by the workers’ comp insurance carrier representing your employer—an “approved physician.” in some cases, state law allows you to request a change of doctor, but there must be probable cause for the change and it can be a lengthy process.
Worker’s compensation laws are extensive, complicated, can vary greatly from state to state, and contain a number of caveats that can help or hurt your claim if you aren’t aware of them. There are also many elements that are time-sensitive, meaning that if you don’t complete a form or take an action within a certain period of time, you may be left without benefits. With all of the hassle of legalities, it may be worth your time to consult with a personal injury attorney, like Oxner + Permar, LLC.
In closing, it can’t be said enough how important it is to follow every step in reporting and seeking medical care following a workplace accident that leaves you with an injury. You never know when a seemingly minor injury can expand into a costly medical journey and time off from work. Without, workers’ compensation benefits, you could be left without an income and responsible for covering your own medical costs.