What Should I Do if I’m Injured on the Job?

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A worker is injured on a construction site job.

If you become injured at work, you should immediately take two actions: tell your employer and get medical help as soon as possible. In addition, when injured on the job, you should inform your supervisor immediately to initiate the workers’ compensation process. Ensure that you keep records of all forms signed by you or given to you and act quickly to avoid delays in getting you the compensation you deserve. Workers’ compensation will pay for medical expenses directly related to your illness or accident. You may also be eligible for a portion of your lost wages while out of work due to your injury. We have compiled a detailed list of steps to take if you become injured at work.

1. What Should I Do If I Am Injured At Work?

You must report your injuries to a supervisor immediately if you ever become injured while at work. If at all possible, you should report your injury in writing. Some states require that a notice be made to your employer in writing, while others deem that verbal notice is sufficient. However, it is in your best interest to make a report to your employer in writing detailing your injuries so that there may be no confusion later down the line. You should also remember that some states have a short statute of limitations or deadline in which you must report an injury to your supervisor. Therefore, you must file immediately so that you will not lose any legal rights you have to receive workers’ compensation benefits from your employer. You should also note that many falls, cuts, and sprains may become severe injuries if they are not treated, even if they seem minor in the beginning. Therefore, after becoming injured on the job, you should seek first aid care at the workplace. If further care is necessary, you should go to an emergency room or healthcare provider as soon as possible and inform them that you were injured at work. If your injury requires it, you should leave work immediately to receive care.

2. If I’m Hurt or Get Sick at Work, Can I See My Own Doctor, or Do I Have To Be Treated by the Company’s Doctor?

Under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), you may initially choose any qualified doctor to treat you after becoming injured at work, although some chiropractors may be restricted. However, if you are not a federal employee covered by FECA, state law will dictate whether you may see your doctor or not. Some states allow you to see your own doctor if you make your request in writing before the injury occurs. However, in many other scenarios, you will be referred to a doctor paid for by your employer and required to see the company doctor for up to 30 days before being able to become treated by your own physician.

If you are a federal employee, under FECA, your doctor will submit medical case notes to answer the workers’ compensation officials’ investigatory questions. Typically, there are no problems arising from this unless your employer requests a second opinion examination. When it comes to second opinion exams, the following guidelines will generally apply:

  • The employer will choose a physician who does not need to be board-certified in any medical field.
  • The agency will pay all associated medical expenses. In addition, it will be responsible for forwarding to the second opinion doctor all existing relevant medical documents, a statement of accepted facts, and any specific concerns they would like the doctor to address.
  • Under the statute, you will have the right to bring your own physician to these exams.
  • Any representative you’ve appointed must receive notice of the exam formally.
  • The assigned physician must submit a report in writing within thirty days of examination.
  • The doctor should only provide medical opinions.
  • If the report from the second opinion is unclear, the workers’ compensation office will be responsible for following up and requesting a supplemental report.
  • If the second opinion physician agrees with the initial evaluation from your treating doctor, your FECA compensation will generally continue uninterrupted. However, suppose the second opinion differs from the initial treating doctor’s report. In that case, the office will typically weigh the medical evidence to determine which evaluation is best or will seek a third doctor’s opinion.

It should be noted that it is typical for more consideration and weight to be given to the second opinion doctor’s evaluation than to the treating physicians. If your workers’ compensation payments have been modified due to the second evaluation, you will have the right to appeal. The assessment from your doctor will have a significant impact on the benefits you will receive. However, a doctor whom your employer’s insurance company is paying may not be looking out for your best interests. They may be on the lookout for prior medical history that could have caused your injury or illness in order to shift blame or attempt to minimize the seriousness of your injury. You are not required to go into detail regarding any prior illnesses or injuries.

When visiting the physician for evaluation, the doctor will evaluate you and assist with the following:

  • Certifying whether or not your injury is work-related
  • Help you in filing a workers’ compensation claim
  • Evaluate when and if you may be able to return to work
  • Recommend further treatment
  • Report any work-related restrictions you may have, such as limitations in lifting, walking, stooping, sitting, or other mental or physical activities and tasks.

Depending on the state in which you worked and became injured, you may have the right to choose your own physician, see a company doctor, or may be able to decline if your company requests to send anyone with you to accompany you to the doctor.

3. How Do I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

A workers’ compensation claim is not a lawsuit against an employer. A workers’ compensation claim is a request for benefits. After becoming injured on the job, you should immediately notify your employer. Your employer will be required to offer you a claim directly. Your employer will have no obligation to provide benefits until this form is completed.

Almost every state in the U.S. requires doctors, emergency rooms, and employers to have the forms needed to start the claims process. However, if you were not offered a claim form, you will be able to find one by contacting your Workers’ Compensation Office. When completing your claim form, you should only fill out the employee section and ensure that you sign and date the form. You should also make a copy of this claim form for your records.

The claim form should then be given to your employer once signed, either in person or mail. If mailing your claim form in, you must use certified mail with the requested return receipt. It is also essential that you file quickly because otherwise, your benefits may be delayed. After your employer receives the signed form from you, they should complete the claim form and forward it to the company’s workers’ compensation insurance company. Your employer should also provide you with a completed copy of the claim form. If you do not receive a copy of the completed claim form signed by your employer, you should request a copy for your records. The workers’ compensation insurance company should notify you within fourteen days by mail regarding the status of your claim. If you do not receive this notification, you should contact the insurance company without delay.

4. What if My Employer Does Not Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

Employers are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance, other than in a few select instances, such as agricultural employees, domestic employees, or independent contractors. Therefore, if your employer claims they do not have workers’ compensation insurance, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.

5. Do I Need a Lawyer?

Whether you should retain an attorney depends on the nuances of your claim. For example, suppose you feel you have been denied workers’ compensation benefits or do not understand any part of your claim. Contact a workers’ compensation lawyer to review your case. If your claim will be heard in front of a judge, you should retain an attorney to represent you.

6. What Are the Rules About Worker’s Compensation in My State?

Each state will dictate which laws, guidelines, and deadlines to follow for workers’ compensation claims. However, you should know that your employer may not discriminate or retaliate against you no matter where you live.

Experienced North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyers

If you have been injured on the job, contact Tatum & Atkinson, PLLC and receive a free case review today. Experienced attorneys are ready to help you at (800) 529-0804. You can also fill out our contact form here, and a workers’ compensation lawyer will be in touch with you soon.