No one wants to get hurt on the job, but it's comforting to at least know that if it does happen, your medical bills and lost wages will be covered by your employer's workers compensation insurance, right? The only problem is, it's not uncommon for workers to find that their injuries actually aren't covered, or that it's harder to claim those benefits than they expected. Usually, this happens because the employee didn't understand one or more of the workers compensation rules. Take a look at a few things that every employee should know to make claiming workers compensation easier when you need it.
Don't Wait to Report The Injury
There are a lot of reasons why you might not want to report an injury to your employer immediately. Maybe you're afraid that you'll be blamed for causing it yourself. Maybe you don't want to take time off work because you can't afford to lose the pay. Maybe the injury just doesn't seem that serious in the moment.
No matter what your rationalization is for not reporting the injury, it's not a good idea to wait. In some states, failing to report an accident or injury in a timely manner can invalidate your claim entirely. Also, it's harder to prove what happened several days after the accident happened. Even if you don't think you're really hurt, you should know that some soft-tissue injuries take a while to show up, so reporting an injury now can ensure that you're covered if you wake up in pain a day or two later.
Don't Go To Your Own Doctor
If your injury is an emergency, you should call an ambulance and go to the nearest hospital. However, if you're not so injured that you need emergency transportation, it's important to stop and ask what hospital or doctor your employer wants you to go to.
Your employer's workers compensation insurance company should provide them with a list of doctors, and you need to go to one of the doctors on your list, not your personal physician (unless your personal physician happens to be included in the workers compensation list.) This is no different from the requirement to use an in-network doctor that your health insurance company probably has. The insurance company will only pay for doctors on the list. Be sure to tell the hospital staff or doctor's office staff that you're there for a work-related injury, too. There should be a box to check on the intake forms for a work-related injury. This ensures that the bills will go to your employer, not to you.
Ask Your Employer For Details
Don't wait for your boss to approach you about workers compensation – ask them for the details of their workers compensation procedure before you go to the doctor if you can, or as soon afterward as possible. Your employer should have a brochure that explains the workers compensation program, and you need that information. Make sure to follow the instructions to the letter.
You should also locate your state workers compensation program website. As soon as you have time, check it out to make sure that you're following the applicable rules for your state, and to make certain that your employer's requirements are within the bounds of the state rules for workers compensation programs.
If you have any trouble claiming your workers compensation, don't hesitate to contact a workers compensation attorney like Hardee and Hardee LLP in your area. While there are many simple workers compensation claims that don't require legal assistance, you should definitely have a legal expert to protect your rights if your claim is being denied or stalled.