According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, millions of U.S. workers are injured on the job each year. Do you know what to do if you're one of them? Injuries can happen at a moment’s notice, and what you do in the following days and weeks can have a large impact on your claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Following these steps can help streamline the process and maximize your chances of getting what you’re legally entitled to.
1. Get emergency medical attention. If your injuries require immediate attention, you should go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care. Let the medical provider know that you were injured at work, and explain how your injuries occurred.
2. Report your injuries. Tell your supervisor about your accident or injuries right away. Each state has different time limits for reporting work-related injuries, which range from a few days to 30 days or more. But, the sooner you notify your employer about your injuries, the sooner your workers’ comp benefits can start. And, the insurance company will be less skeptical of your claim if you report your injuries as soon as they happen.
3. File a claim form. Reporting your injury fulfills your obligation to put your employer on notice, but you may also need to file a workers’ compensation claim form. Filing the claim form is the official start to your workers’ comp case in many states. Your employer, or its insurance company, should provide you with the necessary forms after you report your injury.
4. Get follow up medical treatment. You should make sure to get the follow up treatment you need. For non-emergency treatment, state laws vary on who gets to choose the treating doctor. Depending on your state, you may be able to select your own doctor, or you may need to go to a doctor approved by your employer. For more information, see our FAQs on getting medical treatment in a workers’ comp case.
5. Follow your doctor’s work orders. If your doctor has said that you need to take time off for work, or need to work reduced hours, let your employer know right away. Your employer may ask to see your doctor’s note for verification. It’s illegal for your employer to retaliate against you because you need time off to recover from your work-related injuries.
6. Comply with reasonable requests by the insurance company. The insurance company may ask you to sign a medical release so that it can access your medical records and bills. In most cases, it makes sense to comply with the request because the insurance company will be entitled to see these documents anyway. But, make sure that the request is limited to medical treatment related to your work injury and not a fishing expedition into your entire medical history.
7. Be wary of requests for recorded statements. When you report your injury, the insurance company may ask if it can take a recorded statement from you over the phone. It’s usually not a good idea to give these statements, as they’re often used by insurance companies to point out inconsistencies in your statements or otherwise reduce your credibility. Later on, the insurance company will be entitled to take a statement from you under oath, called a “deposition,” but this takes place in person and you’ll have the opportunity to have a lawyer present.
8. Keep a daily journal. You may want to keep a journal with important information relating to your workers’ comp claim. Some information to keep track of includes:
· a list of witnesses who saw your accident or have knowledge of how you were injured
· details about your symptoms, what activities you are limited in, and what treatment you have received
· names, dates, and addresses of all doctors that you’ve seen
· mileage log for all doctors’ appointments you have attended (you can usually get reimbursed for this), and
· notes from any conversations you’ve had with the insurance company.9. Follow up with the insurance company. Once you file your claim, the insurance company will have a period of time to investigate and decide whether to accept or deny your claim. The time limit varies from state to state, but is generally between two to four weeks. If you don’t hear from the insurance company within this time, be sure to follow up.
10. Consult with an attorney. If the insurance company is giving you a hard time or has denied your claim, don’t lose hope. Insurance companies are known to deny rightful claims. Consult with a workers’ compensation attorney right away to explore your options for pursuing your claim.
For answers to your questions about the workers’ comp process and more, see our FAQs on workers’ comp basics.