What Are My Rights After I’m Injured?
Although workers compensation is supposed to help injured workers recover, many are denied or don’t receive all the benefits they really need. You have many legal rights after you’re injured at work. The best way to legally protect yourself after you get into an accident is to know all the right steps to take.
Also Read: 7 Red Flags You Should Sue Your Bad Employer
Rights All Workers Should Know
All workers have the right to a relatively safe working environment. You must report all hazards and injuries to your employer. In order to protect your legal rights, report any and all injuries to your employer right away.
It’s not always possible for you to report an injury as soon as it happens. Over 33% of workplace injuries are from overexertion. Let’s say you need to lift something heavy, and the next day you wake up with serious back pain. Even though the injury is not apparent right after you lift the object, as soon as an injury becomes apparent, you need to inform your employer.
In addition to a safe working environment, injured workers also have the right to:
- File a workers compensation claim at the state or local level for a work-related injury or illness.
- See a doctor to get medical treatment, and even get a second opinion.
- Return to work after a doctor’s release.
- Receive disability compensation for both temporary and permanent injuries or illnesses.
- Appeal or take legal action against settlements, denied claims, and disagreements related to the injuries or illnesses.
- Refuse offers that deter or stop the worker from filing for workers compensation.
- Have legal representation during every step of the way.
And these are just some of your rights as a worker. It’s important to understand that you can refuse offers or suggestions by your employer.
For example, your employer may encourage you to use your own health insurance to cover your medical expenses so they won’t have to provide you with any compensation. Remember to always talk to a lawyer before accepting any kind of offer like this. The most important right to remember during this process is the right to just say “no.”
8 Things To Do After You’re Injured At Work
Now that you know some of your rights as an injured worker, it’s time to exercise those rights as you work through the process of getting your deserved workers compensation. These 8 steps legally ensure workers get paid for their injuries and receive the compensation they deserve.
Report The Injury Immediately
As soon as your injury or illness becomes apparent, you should report the injury to your employer. If you do not report the injury, you risk losing all your rights. When making the report, you should be as detailed as possible. The report should explain:
- What the injury or illness is
- The source or cause of the injury
- When the injury became apparent
- What you were doing at the time of the injury
- Who was with you at the time of the injury
- Other background information on the situation
Be sure to mention if the hazard that caused the injury was brought up with a supervisor. Employers need to provide safe working environments to their employees, and need to address risks brought up by employees.
Workers compensation laws vary by state. In some states, there are certain deadlines for when you can apply for workers compensation. If you miss the deadline, you could lose your right to these benefits. Many injuries aren’t apparent as soon as they happen, and some injuries may prevent you from applying for these benefits during the timeframe. If you do miss the deadline, you still have some legal options.
Get Medical Treatment
As soon as your injury is apparent, you need to seek medical attention. If you want to receive workers compensation, you cannot “tough it out.” This can lessen your chances of receiving compensation. A doctor legally needs to examine you, and assess your injuries.
Describe the entire situation to your doctor. Explain the source of the injury and how it affected your job. This will also help your doctor fill out an accurate medical report.
Get A Second Opinion
If you’re seeing a doctor within your insurance company’s network, there could be a conflict of interest. Some doctors might trivialize your injuries to protect the insurance company. A doctor’s own personal beliefs may also impact their diagnosis. Getting a second opinion strengthens your claim, even if the first doctor gives a good diagnosis.
Go Over Your Benefits
You may have medical benefits through your work, but that doesn’t mean those benefits should be used to cover your medical expenses. You should still receive workers compensation to cover your work-related injury.
There are a few different types of workers compensation you can receive:
- Temporary disability benefits pay for time off while you’re recovering from the injury.
- Permanent disability benefits pay for lasting and permanent impairments from the injury.
- Medical treatment benefits pay for any medical care related to the injury.
- Vocational rehabilitation benefits assist with retraining and career counseling fit to your working restrictions.
- Mileage benefits reimburse you for any travel expenses related to your injury or workers comp.
With your lawyer, go over what kind of compensation and coverage you’ll need. Be sure to also go over your medical leave in case you need more time while your workers compensation is sorted out.
Take An Independent Medical Exam
An independent medical exam (IME) reports and summarizes your case’s injuries. Unlike a regular exam, this exam is conducted by your insurance company’s doctor. This doctor gives their professional opinion on your diagnosis, work restrictions, and how the injury relates to your work. You must attend this appointment if you want to receive workers compensation.
However, since this doctor works for the insurance company, they might now always have your best interest at hand. This is why it’s important to get a second opinion in case you need to appeal the IME. Before your scheduled appointment, be sure to talk with a lawyer about what kind of questions you should and should not answer.
Keep Record Of Everything
To keep your case as active as possible, you should keep copies and records of everything. This will help keep your case as strong as possible. Be sure to have copies and records of things such as your paperwork, work restrictions, and interactions with your employer and the insurance company. Work restrictions aren’t always included in your medical reports. These records will legally protect you while making and appealing claims.
Attend All Legal And Medical Proceedings
If you don’t have an employment lawyer, you need to attend all meetings, mediations, court dates, and conferences regarding your workers compensation. If you are working directly with a lawyer, you don’t have to attend every proceeding, but you should do your best to do so.
There are some key meetings such as your IME that you will have to attend. If you cannot make a meeting, inform your employer, insurance company, and lawyer right away to reschedule the meeting.
Watch Out For Private Investigators
Insurance companies want to disprove, belittle, or falsify your claim. This is especially true if your injury permanently disables you and prevents you from working for the rest of your life. Insurance companies hire private investigators to inspect you, your life, and your claim.
For example, you may claim you can no longer lift heavy objects, but the private investigator catches you picking up your child at home. Although this is incredibly invasive, it’s very common for insurance companies to do this to disprove your claim.
What To Do If Your Claim Was Denied
Employers everywhere must provide a safe work environment for their employees, even if they do strenuous and dangerous work. Far too often, employers fail to provide this for their employees. Workplace injuries are so common, it’s estimated that an employee is injured every 7 seconds!
If you’re injured at work, you should receive compensation for your injuries. If your claim was denied, your benefits are reduced, or your claim is ignored, you have the right to take legal action. The best way to assure that your claim is heard and you get all the benefits you need is to hire an employment lawyer.
Your employment lawyer can make sure that your employer and insurance company properly addresses your needs and your claims. To find an employment lawyer near you, call the number listed at the top of the page.
Also Read: 8 Questions To Ask An Employment Lawyer