After getting injured on the job, a lot of thoughts may be running through your mind. How did this happen? How am I going to support myself and my family? Am I going to lose my job? What do I do now? We have broken down what you can expect during this difficult time.
1. Report your injury immediately.
You must report your injury within 120 days to be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Legally, you cannot be fired for reporting a work injury, so don’t withhold reporting your injury for fear of losing your job.
Workers’ compensation benefits are designed to compensate you or your dependents for the following:
- Lost wages
- Medical expenses reasonable to treat the injury or illness
- Benefits to cover a specific loss, such as a limb or the ability to use it
- Payment for severe disfigurement or scars
- Death benefits, such as payment of burial expenses (where applicable)
2. Treat with your own doctor.
A strong medical history of treatment for your injuries is crucial for workers’ compensation. Treating with your own doctor ensures that you are receiving quality care for your injuries.
Some employers attempt to subject employees to seeing specific doctors for 90 days after an injury occurs. There are very specific guidelines employers must follow (and many do not).
3. Secure an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Workers’ compensation is a complicated area of law with various forms that must be filled out within specific timeframes. Workers’ comp lawyers do not charge a fee unless they win your case and all fees must be approved by a judge. Your employer will retain an experienced attorney to represent them. It is in your best interest to have an attorney defending your rights and helping ensure you get the right medical care.
4. Your employer will file a claim with its workers’ compensation insurance provider.
Within 21 days of reporting your injury to your employer, you will either be approved or denied for workers’ compensation benefits.
The best case scenario is that your employer will properly compensate you for your lost wages and medical expenses related to your work injury. However, employers and their insurance carriers do not always do what they should. If your claim is denied, your attorney can dispute this by filing a petition to have your claim reopened.
5. You will most likely have to attend an Independent Medical Exam (IME).
IMEs are designed to allow your employer/its insurance company to evaluate your injuries. IMEs are often anything but independent. The doctors used for these exams are hired by your employer and paid by the insurance company, so they are often not impartial in their evaluations. You can be required to have one IME every six months for every injury, even if your claim was approved.
6. If your benefits were denied and you filed a claim petition, your case will be assigned to a workers’ compensation judge.
The judge will provide you and your attorney with a schedule for your hearing(s) and/or mediation. A mediation is an attempt to settle your case without a hearing. Not all mediations result in settlements. At the hearing, the judge will review paperwork submitted by your attorney and your employer/insurance company’s attorney and hear testimony.
7. A decision will be made.
The judge will issue a written decision to you, your attorney and your employer/insurance company. If you are approved, your benefits will become active. If you are denied, your attorney can appeal your case.
If you or someone you know has been injured, developed a work-related illness, or believe you have been treated unfairly, we can help. Fill out the form below to contact us today.
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