When you get injured on the job, there's likely a list of things you're worried about. First and foremost is how you'll pay for medical bills and how you will continue to work. You probably know a little bit about workers' compensation, but you may not know how to take advantage of the benefits you are entitled to. If you're not sure what the procedures are for filing a claim for a work injury, here are some important things you should know.
Important Time Limits
You need to file sooner rather than later. Depending on the state you live in, the statute of limitations (time limit to file a claim) can run out as soon as one year from the date of the injury. The average limit is two years from the injury or from when the injury/damage is discovered. The sooner you submit and file a claim, however, the better. This is helpful because, in addition to getting you compensation sooner, the details will be fresher on everyone's mind—you'll remember the exact turn of events that led to the injury, and an employer won't be able to claim that it never happened.
Also be aware that there is a time limit for notifying your employer of the injury - usually 30-45 days. Failing to notify your employer in time may result in the loss of your right to file a workers' compensation claim.
Independent Contractors vs. Employees
Being an independent contractor may alter your eligibility for compensation. Depending on the employer, if you are classified as an independent contractor rather than an employee of the company, you may need to file a personal injury claim instead of a workers' comp claim. If you're not sure if you're a contractor or an employee, your tax forms should tell you. If you file 1099 forms when you do your taxes, you're an independent contractor. If you're injured at work, it is wise to contact a personal injury attorney for advice, especially if you are working as an independent contractor.
Medical Exam and Treatment
You will likely have to see a doctor that your employer chooses (either instead of or in addition to seeing your choice of doctor) for an injury assessment. You are not required to receive treatment from this doctor, however. You may still be treated by doctors or hospitals of your choice (but you may have to pay for it); the employer-chosen doctor's examination is typically conducted for insurance purposes.
Your Position at Work May Not Be Held
You may not be able to return to your old position once you are healed. Although it is illegal for your employer to fire you for getting injured, the company does not have to hold your job while you are away. In other words, you may be reassigned to a different position upon your return.
If the company does try and fire you after getting injured, you should seek the help of an attorney. Though wrongful termination cases can be difficult to prove, they can be fought.
More Than One Job May Mean More Compensation
If you have two jobs and an injury at the first prevents you from working the second, you may be entitled to compensation for wages lost at both. Here, it's especially helpful to have legal help, so that your average weekly wage—the figure on which your compensation would be based—is accurate.
There are many complexities surrounding the issue of getting workers' compensation when working two jobs. For example, your employer at the job where you were injured needs to have known that you had a second job. Also, a work injury at the first job does not prevent you from being fired at the second job, as time missed wasn't caused by an injury at that job.
An Attorney Can Help You Get More Money
Getting professional legal help will almost always result in you getting more compensation than if you tried to file the case yourself. While insurance companies will usually be agreeable when paying out for missed wages and medical bills, you may be eligible to receive far more compensation in the form of a lump sum payout for permanent impairments. An experienced workers' comp attorney know tips and tricks for how to get the most money for injured people.
Always Get Medical Treatment Immediately
If you're injured at work, make sure you tell your employer right away, and then seek medical help. It is better to get treatment sooner and worry about bills afterwards, as waiting to get medical attention can exacerbate or worsen injuries, even causing permanent damage.
For more information and tips, see our section on Workers' Compensation Claims.