In an earlier post, we talked about the concerns that go with filing a personal injury claim against an employer. Today, we are going to go a little more in-depth on what to do, and what you can expect if you are injured on the job.
According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, nearly three million people were injured or became ill in the workplace in 2012, which is roughly equivalent to 3.4 out of 100 full-time workers. Jacoby & Meyers, a personal injury law firm in California, states that the number of injured is closer to four thousand per year, and that some workers never recover from their injuries. Although the numbers had declined from previous years, that’s still a fairly large number of people injured on the job. Luckily, we have the Workers’ Compensation system.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ Compensation system is a collection of state-level programs designed to compensate civilian workers who are injured while performing employment activities. It also provided benefits to the employee’s survivors, in the event of the employee’s death on the job. Employers are required to pay into this system by taking out liability insurance policies with private insurers.
Types of Compensation
The Workers’ Compensation system offers compensation for four different incidents:
· Medical, which includes all aspects of receiving care for the injury including doctor visits, surgical and hospital services, transportation, and medications;
· Permanent injury, which is compensation for lost earning capacity if the injury or illness has lasting or permanent effects on the worker’s ability to work, such as an amputation or brain damage;
· Death, which is compensation to the worker’s surviving spouse and/or children if the worker dies as a result of an accident or injury on the job.
Each state has specific criteria for qualifying for Workers’ Compensation.
Filing a Claim
Each state has its own criteria for qualifying for Workers’ Compensation, but the process is pretty much the same from state to state.
First, you should notify the human resources department of your injury. However, if it’s an emergency, you should seek medical attention first, and then notify your employer. Your doctor will tell you the extent and severity of your injury, and your employer will have the necessary forms for filing a Workers’ Compensation claim. If your employer does not provide the forms, then you should contact your local Workers’ Compensation office.
Second, you should fill out the forms with all of the necessary information, including the date and time of the incident, and the circumstances under which the injury occurred. Once you have completed the forms, return them to your employer, who should then send them to your local Workers’ Compensation office.
Third, you should follow-up with your employer, and with the Workers’ Compensation office, to ensure that the paperwork has been filed.
Employers have the right to dispute Workers’ Compensation claims, and they often do so for a variety of reasons, which often boil down to the employer trying to avoid paying the claim.
If an employer does decide do dispute the claim, he could use several methods to avoid paying, including:
· Claiming the employee is at fault for his injury. The employer could claim that the employee did not follow established safety protocols, or that he was acting irresponsibly at the time of the accident.
· Preventing witnesses from backing the employee’s claim;
· Having the employee use his own medical insurance, which would require him to declare that the injury was not work-related;
· Neglecting to file the claim, failing to document the injury, and otherwise delaying the process;
· Failing to file the claim before the deadline;
· Requiring the employee to see the company doctor, or to the insurance company’s doctor, which can often result in a different diagnosis than if the employee had gone to a Workers’ Compensation doctor;
· Spying on employees to prove that they are not injured, or that their injuries are not as severe as they claim; and,
· Threatening workers with termination or pay cuts, especially if the injury affects his work and company has delayed filing the claim – with no paperwork, the employee cannot prove that his reduced productivity is work-related, thereby making him vulnerable.
If the employer disputes the claim, the employee has the right to request a hearing before the Workers’ Compensation Board. If a hearing is necessary, or if the employer is using tactics to avoid paying on the claim, the employee should consult with an attorney who specializes in Workers’ Comp and personal injury claims.