Millions of Americans are hurt at work each year. Employers notoriously underreport these on-the-job accidents. In 2008, according to numbers from the AFL-CIO, 4.6 million employees suffered work-related illnesses or injuries. But the true figure is estimated to be at least two to three times greater. Why is this?
When an employee is hurt at work, his or her boss is generally expected to cover all medical expenses. To do so, they must file a claim with their insurance provider, which may lead to higher insurance premiums in the future. As a result, bosses often discourage workers from reporting their injuries. Many underlings agree out of loyalty to their employers, but come to regret the decision almost immediately.
What To Do?
To begin with, always notify your supervisor, the personnel department, and your union representative (if you have one) as soon as an injury or illness is sustained. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to receive the treatment and benefits you are entitled to. If your supervisor asks you not to report the incident, inform him or her that you simply want to follow the established procedure.
That procedure begins with the “Employee’s Claim for Workers’ Compensation Benefits” form, which must be filled out and returned to your supervisor as soon as possible after the accident occurs. Make sure you get a copy of the report, and that you include any information that might strengthen your claim for benefits, such as the names of employees who may have witnessed the incident.
In addition to medical coverage, an injured employee may be entitled to temporary or permanent disability support as well as vocational rehabilitation, all of which will be carefully reviewed before they are rejected or approved. If your claim for any of these benefits is denied, you may appeal the decision in court. At this time, it is strongly recommended that you seek the counsel of a workers’ compensation attorney.
How Can They Help?
The most common reason compensation claims are rejected is because they are not filed in a timely manner. New laws have shortened many deadlines, and employees who do not file a claim shortly after they are hurt at work may not be entitled to restitution. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney knows the laws regarding coverage in your state and can file a suit on your behalf.
What Will They Need From You?
The first thing a legal advisor will request is a copy of the Employee’s Claim for Workers’ Compensation Benefits form. He or she will also ask for accurate records of your injury or illness, including days of work missed, dates of medical treatment, mileage or expenses incurred for medical treatment, and all out-of-pocket medical and prescription costs. The more accurate your records, the stronger your case will be.
Before the law firm accepts your case, lawyers will review all of the facts of your accident at work. Be aware that filing a false claim is a serious crime, a felony in some states. The injury must have occurred on the job. Aggravating an old or pre-existing condition may not entitle you to workers’ compensation, disability, or vocational rehabilitation. Having said that, if you are hurt at work, it is important to follow the proper steps. Early missteps may result in denial of the treatment and support you are legally entitled to.