If you suffer an injury while at work, you should notify your supervisor immediately -- and contact your human resources department to make sure an accident report is filed. Request medical treatment at the same time -- because your employer may direct you to a specific medical provider who handles workers' compensation injuries. Even if you aren't sure your injuries are serious, it's important to follow these steps -- some long-term health conditions don't appear right away, and you'll want to have filed the appropriate reports if you develop any complications.
2. What can I do if my injuries prevent me from returning to my old job?
If you can no longer perform your job because of work-related injuries, the Workers' Compensation Act provides for vocational rehabilitation. Depending on your state, this is usually supplied through your employer's compensation carrier. You will be assigned to a vocational rehabilitation counselor to help you find new employment.
3. How long does my claim stay open?
If you have a workers' compensation claim and you receive medical treatment but don't lose any time from work, your claim will close within one year from the date of your last medical treatment paid for by the workers' compensation carrier. However, if you were collecting weekly benefits, your claim will close two years from the last date you received compensation.
4. What kind of benefits will I receive?
If you are injured at work, you should receive medical treatment, benefits for any wages lost, and benefits for any permanent disability caused by the injury.
5. What about Death Benefits?
Benefits for people killed as a result of a work-related accident or injuries vary from state to state. Typically, dependents of the deceased might be entitled to receive a percentage of the deceased's weekly wage for a limited time period. Because death benefits are often more complicated to obtain, a workers' compensation attorney can provide more information pertinent to your situation.
Insurance carriers usually want a statement from anyone injured in a work-related incident. However, if you have any reason to think the insurance company may question the circumstances, you should consult with an experienced workers' compensation lawyer before submitting a statement.
7. If I file a claim for workers' compensation benefits, can I be fired by my employer?
No. It is against both state and federal law for an employer to fire an employee for filing a workers' compensation claim. If you have been led to believe that your job is at risk for filing a claim, this is not true -- and you should talk to an attorney to protect your rights.
8. Are on-the-job injuries really all that common?
Unfortunately, yes. On an average day, more than 150 people are killed as a result of injuries or illnesses related to their jobs -- and more than 15,000 are injured. That's an injury or death every five seconds, so you should always exercise caution when performing a job-related task.
9. I belong to a union - does that mean I shouldn't consult an attorney to help with my workers' compensation claim?
No - in fact, just the opposite is true. Often, you can achieve a better result from your claim by working with your union steward and an experienced workers' compensation attorney. Your union can be a useful resource for any relevant collective bargaining agreements, and may also help you obtain important data from the workplace. Your lawyer will be familiar with the legal issues pertinent to your case, and will be able to draw upon past cases for additional recommendations.
10. Since I may qualify for Workers' Compensation, why would I need a lawyer if I was injured on the job?
In theory, Workers' Compensation law would provide you with the compensation needed to deal with any repercussions from your injuries. In reality, you may encounter obstacles that require legal assistance -- such as not receiving proper medical treatment or your benefit checks, lack of communication from the insurance company or long term concerns about your future earning ability. An attorney with experience in Workers' Compensation can help with these issues and others, ensuring a more secure outcome for your case.