What to Do After a Workplace Injury
If you have been injured in a work-related accident, you may be unsure of your rights and what your employer is legally required to do for you. In rare cases, employers may try to keep an employee from obtaining compensation they are entitled to; or, your employer may assume you are familiar with the workers’ compensation system while you remain unaware and miss out on potential benefits. That is why it is so important to know your rights as a worker, from the moment the accident occurs to the day you return to work. You have a right to:
- File a claim for your injury or illness through your state’s workers’ compensation program.
- See a doctor.
- Return to your job once you are cleared by a doctor to work.
- Apply for disability benefits if you are unable to return to work (either temporarily or permanently) as a result of your work injury or illness.
- File an appeal if you are dissatisfied or disagree with the benefits allotted to you by your state’s workers’ compensation program.
- Legal representation throughout the process of filing a claim.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim is your legal right. Your employer is engaging in an unlawful practice if they try to discourage you from filing a workers’ compensation claim, encourage you to use your own health insurance to pay for medical treatment after a work-related accident, or harass you to keep you from filing a claim. This is why it is invaluable to have a seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer at your side.
Steps To Take After a Work Accident
Now that you know your rights as a worker, you should be aware of important steps to take if you find yourself injured from a work-related accident. First, you should know that as long as you are an official employee and your injury occurred while you were performing your job duties, you are entitled to workers’ compensation. On the other hand, you may already know that you qualify for workers’ compensation, but are unsure how to apply for those benefits. Here are important steps that will help set you on the path to recovery.
Determine if you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ compensation is a system of laws in each state that ensures workers who are injured on the job receive money to cover their medical costs and lost wages, regardless of the cause of the accident. Most workers are eligible for these benefits, but there are a few exceptions. Before you file a claim or take any action towards your employer, you need to determine whether or not you can receive workers’ compensation. To be eligible, you must:
- Be an official employee. Independent contractors, freelancers, and gig workers typically do not fall in the “employee” category.
- Have been injured or contracted an illness while performing your job duties. Note that, unlike in third-party personal injury cases, negligence does not play a role. Regardless of who caused the accident, employees injured on the job can receive workers’ compensation.
- Work for an employer who has workers’ comp insurance. Almost all states require employers to purchase this insurance, as it protects them from legal action in case of employee accidents and also provides compensation for employees injured on the job. If your employer does not have this insurance, it is possible you could bring a negligence case against him, or your state may have other options for obtaining compensation. Contact a work accident lawyer in your state to discuss your case further.
Report the accident to your employer.
This is by far the most important step you can take, because it acts as proof of the incident. This becomes necessary to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, and can be especially useful if you don’t experience any medical issues immediately but begin showing symptoms later on. If there is no initial accident report, there could be doubt about your medical symptoms or you could have difficulty filing a claim, as it may seem like you are trying to receive benefits fraudulently. Additionally, some states have a time limit within which you have to report the accident, or you could lose your right to benefits. For example, in New York, an employee has 30 days to notify his employer in writing of the accident. Some employers may give you an official accident report form to fill out, or you may have to ask for one. Regardless of the circumstances, the bottom line is to make sure your employer has a record of the accident as soon as possible after it occurs.
Seek medical attention.
If the accident requires it, seek treatment at the emergency room. If your injuries are less severe, you should get examined by a medical professional as soon as possible. In some states, the workers’ compensation program or insurance provider will choose the doctor that you see, while in other states you can see your own doctor. For example, under the Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA), an injured federal employee is allowed to choose any qualified physician for treatment, while New York workers’ compensation laws require that the worker obtain medical treatment from a health care provider that is authorized by the Workers’ Compensation Board. If your doctor is chosen for you and you are dissatisfied with his report, you may be able to seek a second opinion from a doctor of your choice, depending on the workers’ comp laws in your state. If you need help deciphering these laws, you may want to consider contacting a workers’ compensation attorney to walk you through the process of obtaining medical reports and filing a claim for benefits.
File a claim with your state’s workers’ compensation program.
Filing a claim is how you will actually receive your benefits, so—aside from reporting the accident—this is one of the most crucial steps. The process for filing a claim can vary by state. Some states have the employer file the claim with their insurance company for the worker, while others ask the employee to submit the claim himself. Additionally, time limits for filing a claim typically run out quickly, so it is important to not only report the accident, but also ensure you or your employer submits the official claim as soon as possible. You should make sure you receive a copy of the claim for your records.
Obtain a workers’ compensation lawyer or consider a third-party claim, if necessary.
Once you submit the claim and it is approved, you should begin receiving benefits. Most workers receive approximately two-thirds of their average weekly income, and most states also impose a limit on the maximum amount a worker can receive weekly. If you are dissatisfied with the amount of benefits you receive through the program, you have options. Most states have some kind of appeals process for employees to make a case for more compensation if they feel they were given an insufficient amount. If this is the case, you may want to hire a workers’ compensation attorney to work with you throughout the appeals process.
Additionally, there is the possibility of filing a third-party personal injury claim if you feel that someone else’s negligence contributed to causing your work accident. Personal injury lawsuits allow you to recover compensation for damages beyond what workers’ compensation allows for, such as pain and suffering. Although it is illegal to sue your employer under workers’ compensation law, it is possible to bring a negligence claim against a third party, such as a general contractor or equipment manufacturer. For example, if you were a retail worker and the elevator malfunctioned when you were using it, causing you to suffer whiplash and some broken bones, you could not sue your employer for this accident. You could, however, potentially sue the manufacturer of the elevator.
Experienced Work Accident Attorneys Are Here To Help
If you have been injured in a work-related accident, you have rights. Whether you simply want to obtain the benefits you are entitled to or explore the possibility of filing a negligence lawsuit against a third party, Block O’Toole & Murphy is here to help. We serve New York and New Jersey workers whose lives have been upended by accidents on the job, and have resolved numerous cases for laborers in need.
Notable work accident results—in particular, third-party work accident lawsuits—include:
- $15,000,000 settlement for the surviving wife and children of a worker who was tragically crushed in a work accident
- $12,000,000 settlement for a laborer who fell while working on a subway extension project and suffered serious injuries, including blindness in one eye and fractures to his arms, legs, and pelvis
- $11,500,000 settlement for a union construction worker who contracted Complex Regional Pain Syndrome after he cut his wrist with a defective saw missing its safety guard
- $11,000,000 settlement for a masonry foreman who became disabled from all construction work after he fell three stories from stepping on an unsecured hole cover
- $10,875,000 jury verdict for a Local 731 union worker who needed multiple surgeries for internal injuries after he fell on a piece of steel rebar at a Brooklyn work site
- $10,500,000 settlement in a wrongful death case for the family of a 50-year-old laborer who tragically died when a defective saw kicked back and struck him in the neck
- $7,400,000 settlement for a union sheet metal worker who suffered injuries that required multiple surgeries after he fell from a beam while working on a renovation project
- $7,300,000 settlement in a Brooklyn case for a worker who was performing steel demolition when a 10,000-pound steel beam fell on him, resulting in multiple serious injuries
- $7,000,000 settlement for a 25-year-old union carpenter who suffered mouth and neck injuries after he was struck in the face by a five-pound metal clamp that fell while working on a construction site in Astoria
- $7,000,000 settlement for a cardboard box baler who was working in a food outlet store when he fell 30 feet down an elevator shaft, resulting in serious crush injuries in his feet and ankles
- $6,793,881 jury verdict for a union worker who suffered severe internal injuries to his gastrointestinal tract when he was impaled by a sharp piece of rebar after falling from a rooftop on the job
- $6,500,000 settlement for a union mechanic who was prevented from ever returning to work again when he fell 18-20 feet off a catwalk, resulting in multiple serious fractures
- $6,500,000 jury verdict for a union worker who was completing demolition work when he was struck by a 2×4 beam thrown down from above
- $6,400,000 settlement for an ironworker who fell 30 feet, fracturing his sacrum and tailbone and leaving him with post-concussion syndrome
- $6,250,000 settlement for a framer who became paralyzed in all four limbs after he fell nine feet off a beam at his work site
- $6,000,000 settlement in a Brooklyn case for a worker who was not provided with safety harnesses and fell through a gap in an exterior scaffold, resulting in herniated discs requiring surgery
- $5,900,000 settlement for a bricklayer who suffered neurological damage, among other injuries, after he fell 20 feet from a ladder at a Bronx work site
- $5,885,000 jury verdict for a 35-year-old laborer who was doing carpentry work in Astoria when he fell from a ladder placed atop a scaffold, resulting in multiple surgeries
- $5,500,000 settlement for a Nassau County excavation worker who suffered multiple fractures and contracted Chronic Regional Pain Syndrome after he was pinned against steel sheeting by a rotating excavator
- $5,500,000 recovery for a truck driver who was delivering office furniture when he was struck by a freight elevator’s metal gate, leading to serious spinal injuries
- $5,500,000 settlement for an electrician who suffered multiple severe injuries, including internal bleeding and a lung puncture, after he fell 14 to 16 feet from a ladder
- $5,000,000 verdict for a carpenter who needed multiple surgeries after he fell off a scaffold while trying to remove a pipe from the ceiling
- $3,500,000 settlement for a NYCTA bus driver who was unable to return to work after the bus he was driving was rear-ended by an NYC Sanitation truck in Brooklyn