Workers’ compensation is an ordinary part of being employed in the modern world. The vast majority of employers in the United States are legally required to hold a valid workers’ compensation policy. This protects both the employer and the employee in case of accidents.
Fortunately, many claims are routine. After reporting the injury to the employer and/or the hospital where treatment is received (always indicating that the injury was work related), the injured worker receives treatment. As long as the injury falls within a covered area, and is deemed to be work-related, medical bills are sent to the insurance company for settlement. The exact terms of settlement are governed by State law and the particular policy held by the employer. State-specific information is readily available on government web sites, for example this official page explaining workers’ compensation laws in the State of New Jersey.
But sometimes, the aftermath of a work-related injury is anything but routine. If an insurance company sees a way to avoid paying a claim, they are likely to pursue it. Likewise, many insurance companies seek to minimize benefits, or terminate them as soon as possible, in order to improve their own bottom line. This can result in a situation where the injured worker’s legal rights are being violated.
Here are five ways to make sure your rights are respected after sustaining a work-related injury.
- 1. Know Your Employer’s Policy Ahead of Time
- It never hurts to be prepared. Think about what kinds of injuries your workplace might present (including “repetitive stress” injuries), and ask your HR department for information about the company’s workers’ compensation policy. Knowing what kind of coverage you are entitled will not take much of your time, and will make things much easier in case the unfortunate does occur.
- 2. Seek Treatment Immediately
- If you delay seeking treatment—whether because you are unsure of your benefits, or for any other reason—insurance companies may use that fact against you. The seriousness or validity of the injury may be called into question, and your claim may run into roadblocks. Seeking treatment as soon as possible leaves no room for debate.
- 3. Report the Injury Quickly and Honestly
- Improper reporting of work-related injuries can result in delayed or denied claims. Since the hospital is often the first port-of-call after an injury, they are often the first people who should know that your injury is work-related. Hospital intake forms should have clear options to indicate this. As soon as possible, notify the HR department at your workplace. Prompt reporting gives your workers’ compensation claim of being approved in a timely way.
- 4. Take your Treatment Seriously
- Once your workers’ compensation claim has been approved, and medical expenses are being settled by the insurance company, be sure to take your treatment seriously—the insurance company certainly will. Missed medical appointments will be known to them, and they’ll look for ways to reduce or terminate your workers’ compensation benefits.
- 5. Talk to an Attorney
- If you are 1) having trouble with your workers’ compensation claim, 2) injured seriously and might require surgery, or 3) injured in a way that might have long-term effects, consider running your case by an attorney. Many attorneys are well-voiced in workers’ compensation law, and are willing to assess your case for free. Once you understand the possible ramifications of your case, you can decide whether or not the attorney’s services are really needed. Go here for more information on legal services available for workers’ compensation claims.