Being injured at work is never fun. Not only are you coping with pain and managing doctor visits, but you may be worried about who’s going to pay the bills. Fortunately, workplace injuries are typically covered by workers' comp. Still, it can be a tough process to actually receive proper compensation. A good workers' comp attorney will stand by your side every step of the way, but you will need to take specific actions to make sure your rights are protected. Here is what you need to know.
Common Workplace Injuries
Workplace injuries run the gamut from burns to crushing injuries caused by falling objects to repetitive use injuries. Every workplace has unique hazards, but all employers are responsible for mitigating risks. Common causes of injuries in the workplace include, but are not limited to:
- Chemical spills
- Falling objects
- Falls from heights
- Scaffolding issues
- Malfunctioning equipment or machinery
- Lack of proper training
- Lack of personal protective equipment
- Lack of supervision
- Cutting corners or taking risks to speed up processes
Types of Compensation
The types of compensation for which you are eligible will depend on the nature of your injury and the specifics of the situation. Common types of compensation include:
- Medical bills
- Rehab expenses
- Loss of wages
- Pain and suffering
- Compensation for permanent disability or disfigurement
Injuries On-Premises vs. Off Premises
In most cases, workers' comp covers injuries that are sustained at the worksite and does not cover injuries that occur elsewhere. But there are exceptions. For example, workers' comp does not cover your commute—but you may be covered if you are running an errand for your employer, even in your personal vehicle. Likewise, if you are injured on a work-related trip, you may be covered. This can be complicated, so it’s always best to seek the advice of an expert workers' comp attorney.
Steps to Take After Being Injured
Immediately after your injury occurs, it’s normal to feel disoriented and overwhelmed. But the steps you take can help to protect your rights. Here is what you should do in the immediate aftermath and the days that follow.
Get First Aid
In many cases, even basic first aid such as wrapping a twisted ankle or flushing debris from your eyes with water can help prevent an injury from getting worse. If you hit your head, are having trouble moving any body part, are experiencing major bleeding, or have any other signs of a serious injury, have someone call 911. If the injury seems minor, though, seek first aid and continue to monitor your condition rather than shaking it off and assuming you’re fine.
File an Accident Report
As soon as you are able, and definitely within the first 24 hours, file an accident report. Your supervisor should have forms available for you to fill out. Even if you don’t think you’re injured, it’s very important to report any incident. Some injuries take a few days to show up, so going ahead and filing a report will ensure that you’re protected if anything pops up.
Confirm Your Eligibility for Worker's Comp
Every state’s workers' compensation laws are slightly different. In general, though, workers' comp covers those who are classified as employees rather than independent contractors. Depending on your state, it may not cover very small businesses, domestic workers, agricultural workers, or those in various other categories. It’s worth asking your employer whether you are covered.
See a Doctor
Even if you don’t think you’re seriously injured, it’s important to see a doctor as soon as possible. Your workers' comp claim will require you to file medical records, and failing to see a doctor in a timely manner could cause your claim to be rejected. If you don’t need emergency treatment, ask your employer which doctor you should visit. Don’t be afraid to seek a second opinion, especially if your injuries are extensive. Even if you have to pay out of pocket for the second opinion, it may be worth it to ensure that your compensation covers everything you will need.
Report Your Injuries
It’s up to your employer to file a workers' comp claim on your behalf. So be sure to let the company know the nature and extent of your injuries. You can ask for a claim to be opened before you see the doctor, but it won’t go far until you report your injuries.
Take Detailed Notes
As soon as possible, and definitely within the first couple of days, take detailed notes about the situation that led to your injury. Include photos of anything that may have contributed to the accident, such as broken equipment or a spill on the floor. In your own words, write an accurate narrative that describes where you were and what you were doing in the moments before the accident, as well as everything you remember about the incident itself. Attach a copy of your doctor’s report when it’s available.
Consult a Workers' Comp Attorney
In an ideal world, a straightforward workers' comp claim would not require the services of an attorney. But in the real world, things are rarely that simple. Some employers try to dispute workers' comp claims. And most of the time, workers are offered a settlement. The settlement may seem reasonable on its surface, but does it truly account for both your current and future losses?
An expert workers' comp attorney can assess the particulars of your case, analyze the settlement offer, consider potential losses that could occur in the future (such as loss of earning potential or likely ongoing physical therapy needs), and determine whether the settlement is fair. If the settlement needs to be negotiated, an experienced workers' comp attorney has the skills that are required to come to a fair and equitable resolution.
In addition, there are some cases in which a lawsuit may be appropriate. If a third party contributed to the incident, or if your employer does not carry proper workers' comp insurance, it might be necessary to file suit. Your workers' comp attorney will let you know if a lawsuit is required or recommended.
At Cooney & Conway, we have the experience and compassion to guide you through the process of receiving compensation for your work-related accident. To get started, fill out our free case evaluation today.