Unfortunately, there is no handbook for workers who have been injured on the job. No playbook that tells you who to call, what to do, or which questions to ask. And, given that each workers’ comp claim is different, it’s difficult to compare your work injury to that of a friend or family members.
Being injured on the job can be a scary. The more prepared you are, the better off you and your workers’ comp claim will be. We’ve compiled a short list of the important things you should know after you’ve been injured on the job.
1. You must report your work injury.
Not only do you have to report your injuries, you should consider reporting it as soon as possible. Depending on the state you work, you may only have a short window of reporting your injury to your employer. Injured workers in New York have 30 days after the date of their injury to inform their employer, while Colorado requires just 4 working days to provide written notification of an injury.
Notifying your employer of your injury is step one of the workers’ comp process. Although small, it is essentially one of the most crucial steps in filing a claim.
2. Worker retaliation is illegal.
In all states, laws and regulations prohibit an employer from firing an employee for filing a workers’ comp claim. Employer retaliation is a big concern for injured workers, so take comfort in knowing that a demotion, pay cut, or change in responsibilities can all be considered retaliation depending in the state you work.
It’s important to know your rights as a worker. If you’ve been injured on the job, don’t be afraid to report your injury to the appropriate person.
3. Each state's workers' compensation laws are different.
Each state’s workers’ compensation system is unique. Some states give the employer the ability to direct their workers to a designed panel of doctors for medical treatment, while other states give the injured worker freedom to choose their healthcare providers.
These differences are important to note as you research your available workers’ comp benefits. Depending on where you are searching, you may find information that is only relevant to workers within a different state.
Instead, try searching for state-specific workers’ comp terms, like Florida Division of Workers’ Compensation or Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Claim, to help you better locate the right resources.
4. Surround yourself with the right people.
Sometimes work comp claims aren’t accepted by an employer. A claim can be denied for a number of reasons. For instance, an employer may deny a claim because it is not a physical injury, like we often see with PTSD in first responders or an employer may argue that the injury didn’t actually take place at work, therefore challenging the compensability.
If you’re struggling with a denied workers’ comp claim or notice some of your benefits have been denied or delayed, its worth considering consulting an attorney. They will help fight to protect your workers’ comp benefits, like medical treatment and wage replacement. They can also connect you with their network of resources that specialize in workers’ comp injuries.
5. Workers' compensation is different than healthcare.
Workers’ compensation is separate and unique from your standard healthcare insurance. Think of it this way, you may choose to buy into your employer’s healthcare plan so that you can visit your primary doctor for an annual check-up and get yearly dental cleanings. Workers’ compensation, on the other hand, is a type of insurance that employers buy into to cover any on-the-job injury costs for their employees.
Workers’ compensation insurance helps to cover things like prescription medication costs, wage replacement, mileage costs, and medical treatment. Keeping track of what is work comp-related and what is not will help to avoid any potential issues of denials or reimbursement.
Not all workers’ compensation claims are alike and not all benefits were created equal. If you’ve been injured on the job, familiarize yourself with your state’s workers’ comp program and don’t be afraid to contact outside support if you feel like something isn’t right. Your time away from work may be less stressful knowing that you have all the right resources in place to help you on your road to recovery.