While some professions are undoubtedly more hazardous than others, almost all of us will be injured to one extent or another during the course of our professional lives. Thankfully, many of these injuries are minor and do not cause more than a momentary disruption to our weekly work week. However, accidents happen and there is no shortage of serious work related injuries unfortunately. This blog briefly discusses the importance of taking immediate action following a work injury, educating yourself about your rights and benefits, and exercising your legal rights if necessary.
If you are injured at work it is vitally important that you take immediate action. Specifically, the two most important things you can do are to seek immediate medical attention and notify your employer of the injury. First, if you are injured trust your instincts about the severity of your injury and do not try to “tough through it.” If you are injured and require medical attention then go see a doctor as soon as possible. When discussing your injury do not try to be a “tough guy” and minimize your symptoms or pain. As will be explained in more detail below, your work comp benefits will be paid (or not) based largely what is in your medical records. If the injury is reported as a minor injury that is not causing any pain then that is what will be recorded in the medical records and future complaints of pain will be view as suspect by the work comp insurance adjuster. It is also important to consistently and accurately report how you were injured to the various medical professionals that treat you. Discordant descriptions of the accident or the injury could lead to an unnecessary reduction in benefits or your claim being denied all together.
Second, you should notify your employer of the injury as soon as practical. In the majority of cases, employer notification happens literally moments after the injury. In other cases where employees do not necessarily work in one central location, employer notification might not occur until days after depending on the severity of the injury. The important thing is that you promptly and accurately describe how you were injured. Once a workplace injury is reported, employers have an obligation to notify its work comp insurance carrier and the Department of Workforce Development, which is the administrative entity that administers the work comp system.
After taking immediate action by notifying your employer and seeking the necessary medical treatment it is important to educate yourself about worker’s compensation. Injured workers have rights and are entitled to benefits. The basic benefits include pay for lost wages, permanent disabilities, medical bills and mileage incurred traveling to and from medical appointments. When an injured worker has to miss work while recovering from a work injury s/he is entitled to temporary benefits, which are paid at 2/3 of that person’s average weekly wage. This is commonly referred to as “TTD” or temporary total disability benefits. If the injured worker is recovering but able to work partial days during the healing period then s/he could recover “TPD” or temporary partial disability benefits.
Once the injured worker reaches a healing plateau his or her doctor will typically provide a permanency rating. The healing plateau simply refers to the point in time when the work injury will not improve dramatically or become significantly worse. Simply put, it means that the injured worker is about as good as s/he will be for the foreseeable future. At that point, the injury has stabilized and the doctor is able to accurately assess whether the injured work suffered a permanent injury. The higher the permanency rating the more “PPD” or permanent partial disability benefits the injured worker would receive. If the injured worker suffered a permanent injury that makes him or her completely unable to work then s/he would be entitled to “PTD” or permanent total disability benefits.
During the healing period, it is a good idea to keep track of your medical appointments. Under the work comp system, you are entitled to a mileage reimbursement for the mileage incurred driving to/from medical appointments. By keeping a log at the beginning of your treatment you will ensure you receive the full amount of compensation to which you are entitled.
In addition to the right to the benefits described above, injured workers also have other important rights. For example, you have a right to see two doctors of your own choosing. In addition, you have a right to seek a second opinion regarding your work injury. You only get one body and it is important to make the most informed decision possible regarding your care. If that means obtaining a second opinion then that is what you should do. Finally, you have the right to consult with an attorney if you believe you are entitled to benefits that you are not currently receiving or have been denied coverage by the work comp insurance carrier. An attorney can ensure your rights are protected and maximize the amount benefits available to an injured worker. At Lawton & Cates, we have been representing injured workers for decades. If you have questions about your work injury give us a call for an honest assessment of your situation.