If you’ve been injured at work, the first thing you might feel is a sense of embarrassment. Your co-workers might have seen or heard about your injury and you might feel self-conscious about it. You certainly didn’t mean to get hurt. And you are likely concerned about your job security (will they get rid of me now?) and you’re certainly right to be concerned about your paycheck. I’ve written two books and countless articles about workers’ compensation cases. It’s an area of the law that I’m passionate about so I’m glad you’re reading this. You have to do your part to take care of you and your family.
How long do I have to report my injury?
Immediately notify your supervisor about your accident. The law doesn’t require you to prove your employer was at fault in causing your injury and it usually doesn’t make your case worth more money even if there was some fault on your employer’s part. All you have to show is that you were doing your job and you had an accident and you notified your supervisor within five days after your injury. So notify your employer as soon as you can if you get hurt at work.
How do I get medical care?
Regarding medical treatment – your employer is obligated to provide you with reasonably necessary medical treatment. The general rule is that they get to choose the doctor that treats you but then they have to pay for it too. They’ll have to pay your doctor bills, your mileage driving back and forth to the doctor, and workers’ compensation benefits if the doctor takes you out of work and you miss enough work. You can’t take yourself out of work and get a check. Typically once in the life of your workers’ compensation case you’ll have the right to what is known as a panel of four. That’s where you let your employer or the insurance adjuster know you’re not satisfied with the doctor they’ve authorized you to treat with but you still need treatment. They’ll put together a list of four doctors and you choose one of those four and that becomes your new doctor.
What about pay for lost wages?
Our law provides for a three day waiting period after a job-related injury. After that, you’ll be entitled to temporary total disability (TTD) benefits which are calculated at 66 2/3 of your average weekly earnings, subject to a cap if you are a high wage earner. These TTD checks will continue until one of two things happens: either you reach maximum medical improvement (see below) or your employer is able to accommodate any work restrictions the doctor places on you. You can’t take yourself out of work and get TTD checks, a doctor has to do it.
When does all this come to a resolution?
Eventually, the doctor is going to determine that you have reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). MMI is defined as a condition that has become well stabilized and is not expected to change substantially in the next 12 months, with or without medical treatment. Basically this means that you are as good as you’re going to get. When you reach MMI, they will cut off your TTD checks.
When you reach MMI, the doctor is able to answer some questions such as: Is this a permanent injury? Do I have any permanent limitations or restrictions? When those questions are answered, your employer has to decide whether they allow you to return to work at the same rate of pay you were earning on the date of your accident.
What is included in a settlement?
There are three categories that the law lets you get compensated for — (1) permanent injury; (2) future medical care and (3) vocational disability, if you qualify. Notice what’s missing — it’s not fair but you aren’t paid a penny for pain and suffering, for the way this injury has affected your lifestyle or your relationships, etc.
Won’t an attorney take a lot of my money?
No. Attorney fees in workers’ compensation cases are capped at what is among the very lowest in the USA, at 15%. This means that if you don’t get a settlement, your attorney isn’t paid and if your attorney succeeds in your case, he or she is paid 15% of the settlement amount.
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