KNOW YOUR RIGHTS: WHAT TO DO IF YOU’RE INJURED AT WORK (PLUS FAQS)
Workplace injuries happen all the time. While we never expect these unfortunate accidents to occur, it's helpful to know that employers in every state are required to pay for workers' compensation insurance to protect their employees' health and wellness.
Creating a safe and healthy work environment is a necessary precaution to help prevent workplace injuries and accidents. However, despite best efforts, work-related injuries can still occur on the job. Injuries could include broken bones, head injury, sickness, psychological injuries, burns, and other occupational hazards.
If you've been injured at work and wonder how to proceed and pursue rightful workers compensation benefits, then continue reading, and I will explain what you should know about your rights and what to do after the injury has taken place.
I Was Injured at Work, What Are My Rights?
When employees are injured at work, they usually have to go through their state's workers' compensation system to get reimbursed. Reimbursements include their medical treatment and other benefits, like partial wage replacement when they're away from work because of their injuries.
Most employers are required to purchase workers' compensation insurance for their employees. This means every state has its own specific rules and regulations around pursuing workers' compensation benefits. In general, there are a few rights that are common across all states that apply to injured employees.
Workers Compensation is designed to pay for injured workers' medical bills, treatments, and a portion of their lost income. Because workers comp is a no-fault system, employees are entitled to benefits—no matter who is at fault for the accident.
Employees are typically ineligible to sue their employer. Although there are ways to file an appeal or pursue alternatives to fair compensation, which we'll cover later. First I will discuss some of the general legal rights that apply to everyone, no matter which state you live in
You have the right to file a workers' compensation claim after a work-related injury.
The first thing to do after a workplace injury is to file a claim for the accident. You can file your claim with the workers' compensation court or your state's industrial court.
After your workplace injury, be sure to fill out an accident report and submit it to your manager or supervisor to help initiate the process in documenting the incident and pursuing rightful compensation as necessary.
You have the right to seek medical care.
Naturally, if you've suffered a workplace injury, you have the right to see a doctor and pursue medical treatment, depending on the severity of your injury.
You may need to seek medical help immediately. Even if symptoms do not present themselves directly and you don't think the injury was serious, I still recommend visiting the doctor for a complete medical examination.
It is also your right to choose your physician, although in some cases, your employer may request you visit a company doctor in their network.
A comprehensive medical evaluation will help provide evidence of the cause and the extent of your injuries. This information will be used to help determine your eligibility and the extent of workers' compensation benefits. Your doctor will also be able to tell you when it is safe to return to work.
You have the right to file an appeal if you disagree with the outcome of your claim.
If you disagree with the outcome of your settlement, you have the right to appeal the decision. Appeals are commonly filed when there are disagreements about when the employee should return to work or about the outcome of workers' compensation for the injury. Appeals are generally used to resolve disagreements between the employee and the employer.
You have the right to file for disability compensation if applicable to your situation.
Suppose your workplace injury leaves you either permanently or temporarily injured and unable to work because of your illness or injury. In that case, you have the right to file for disability benefits, in addition to standard worker's compensation benefits.
You have the right to return to work when the doctor says you're ready.
Once your doctor says you're deemed fit to return to work, you have the right to do so.
Now that we've covered the common legal rights across all states let's touch on the common FAQs people have about workplace injuries.
Top 9 Workplace Injuries FAQs
1. Do I Get Paid if I'm Injured at Work?
If your employer carries workers' compensation insurance and you've suffered a workplace injury, then insurance will partially or fully cover your wages while you're recovering and unable to work.
2. Can I Sue My Employer for an Injury on the Job?
Generally speaking, employees are barred from suing their employers over a work-related injury. This is what worker's compensation is there for.
Unless the employer deliberately and knowingly caused harm to the employee, suing won't be an option.
Workers' comp insurance operates on a no-fault system, meaning the employee doesn't have to prove fault to submit a claim and pursue rightful compensation benefits for the injury.
3. How Long Do I Have to Sue for Work-Related Injuries?
The statute of limitations varies from state to state.
The statute of limitations in Louisiana is one year from the injury date, but some states may have up to two years.
4. Should I Hire a Workers' Comp Attorney?
That depends. If your injury was minor and straightforward, then seeking the help of an attorney may not be necessary.
However, if you suffered a severe injury or occupational disease that requires extensive recovery and medical treatment to get well, then speaking with an attorney may be a smart decision.
When your health and financial standing are on the line, it is in your best interest to pursue reasonable compensation for your injury. An attorney can help you understand your rights to fair compensation and work with you to pursue these financial benefits to their fullest.
5. Can I receive Reemployment Assistance and workers' Compensation Benefits at the Same Time?
In most cases, no, you cannot.
When you file for unemployment benefits, you indicate that you are ready and physically able to find work. Workers' compensation benefits are intended to support those who cannot return to work because of a temporary or permanent injury.
6. What Kinds of Work-Related Injuries are Covered?
Perhaps the best way to answer this question is by spelling out what kinds of work-related injuries are NOT covered.
Accidents caused (fully or partially) by drugs, alcohol, or other intoxicants are unlikely to be covered by worker's compensation insurance. Likewise, if the injury occurs on a break or lunch away from the workplace or during a commute, injuries are not likely to be covered.
7. What Happens if my Employer Does not Have Workers' Compensation Insurance?
Most states in America require employers to carry workers' compensation insurance through a third-party insurance carrier or through a self-insured program set up by the employer.
In some instances, employers may not have insurance either because they don't meet the minimum number of ploys that require insurance coverage. Suppose your employer does not carry workers' compensation insurance. In that case, you may be able to file a personal injury claim for a personal injury lawsuit, depending on your injury's details.
Suing an employer in a court of law is a much longer process than regular workers' compensation because you'll need to prove your employer was at fault for the injury accident.
Speaking with a workers' comp attorney can help get the process started in a timely manner. Another option may be to see if your state has special funds for uninsured employees, sometimes called uninsured employee funds, uninsured employ your funds. Check with your state's workers' compensation office for more information.
8. What is the Difference Between Workers' Compensation and Disability?
The difference is that workers' compensation only covers work-related injury or sickness. In contrast, disability insurance replaces a portion of your income from injury or illness that occurs both on and off the job.
9. What is a Pre-Existing Condition?
A pre-existing condition is simply any health condition someone has before enrolling in a health insurance plan.
Don't Make These 3 Common Mistakes After A Job Injury
Knowing what to do after a workplace injury is just as important as knowing what not to do. And this section will cover some of the common mistakes injured employees end up making that can decrease their potential settlement value or amounts of benefits you receive, Or that can slow down the process altogether.
Mistake #1: You Wait Too Long to Report Your Injury
The most common mistake injured workers make is not reporting their accident right away.
In Louisiana, employees have thirty days to report the accident and ninety days to report an occupational disease from the first sign of illness. While there are some exceptions and extensions around these regulations, it is always a good idea to report your accident on time so you can get the incident resolved as soon as possible. Even if you don't think your accident or injury was serious, it is still important to report the event to your employer to get it on the official record.
Mistake #2: You Don't Report the Accident Properly
Another common mistake is failure to report the extent of injury fully.
For example, if you injured one part of your body in a slip and fall but also injured another part, but to a lesser degree, it's important to report both injuries. When you get your medical evaluation, the doctor's write-up will contain formal evidence of the extent of your injuries, so it is crucial that you communicate all injuries honestly and to their full extent.
Additionally, it's important that you report any pre-existing injuries or conditions or any previous work injuries, transparency about these matters. When filling out medical forms and undergoing your medical evaluation after an injury will be important because the employer's insurance company will use this information against your claim to determine fair compensation coverage and benefits. The last thing you want is to fight workers' compensation fraud due to offering incomplete or false information about your injury.
Mistake #3: You Don't Return to Work When You're Able To
Another common mistake employers make is not returning to work when you're able to do so.
In some situations, say you've suffered a partial injury and cannot fulfill your previous work-related duties, an employer may offer you a different position to accommodate your injuries (often called light duty). These positions may be offered at a lower wage, and failing to accept the job may be considered a voluntary income loss. That means you may stand to lose your compensation and benefits, and it may open up the possibility that your employer terminates you for a refusal to work.
Seek Help From a Worker's Comp Injury Lawyer to Discuss Your Personal Injury Claim
Louisiana Workers' compensation law is complex, but Bruscato Law Firm knows workers' compensation law inside and out.
If you were injured at work and have questions about your rights or the claims process, contact John Bruscato today.
Bruscato is an experienced workers' compensation attorney in Monroe, LA, and he's ready to provide expert legal advice in a free consultation. Whether you've suffered physical injury, mental injury, or occupational illness, Bruscato is prepared and waiting to fight for your rights to fair compensation so you can get better and back to work.