Workplace injuries can be devastating. Not only do you have to seek medical treatment, but you will likely be saddled with the challenges of navigating workplace bureaucracy and paperwork. You also have to contend with the isolation of being out of work, and the difficulties of dealing with daily life while hurt. Here are four things you need to know if you are injured in the workplace.
You Should Report the Injury Immediately
You should notify your supervisor of the nature of your injury, the time of your injury, and how the injury occurred. Your notification should be submitted in writing. Though some states recognize a verbal notification as valid for workers’ compensation claims, you should submit it in writing to avoid any possible disputes. Filing as soon as possible is also important, as many states have a statute of limitations that will expire if you wait too long to notify your employer.
You Are Likely Entitled to Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program that businesses buy into to cover the medical bills and lost wages of workers who have been hurt at the worksite. The National Federation of Independent Businesses writes that all employers with at least one employee must carry workers’ compensation coverage. So even if you are working for a cupcake shop the size of a shoebox, you will have workers’ comp. This also means that independent contractors (such as workers who receive a form 1099 on tax day rather than a W2 form) are rarely eligible for workers’ comp. According to the United States Department of Labor, workers’ comp will cover, at a minimum, lost wages, some medical treatment, and vocational rehabilitation (in other works, programs to help you get back on the job), as well as other benefits.
Legal Counsel Can Get You What You Need
Unfortunately, getting workers’ comp is a messy process. Employers are sometimes slow to get you the paperwork. The paperwork can be difficult, and disagreements about the best course of treatment may arise between you and your employer. Personal injury lawyers can help you file an injury at work claim, and having lawyers on your side can help for injuries that may be less obviously catastrophic than a fall or a broken bone — including injuries arising from exposure or extreme stress. However, Investopedia writes that, if your employer offers you workers’ compensation, you cannot sue your employer for negligence as the result of that workplace injury. Lawyers can instead help you navigate the complicated process of claiming everything workers’ compensation entitles you to.
Knowing the Real Risks Will Help You Pull Through
Every workplace has some associated health risks, whether you are making steel pipes, cherry pies, or data pipelines. Though most people imagine dramatic accidents when they hear the term “workplace injury,” these are rare, and many workplace injuries are the result of repetitive motion or exposure to hazardous materials. Toxic exposure, salmonella, or carpal tunnel can take you out of commission. When an illness prevents you from working for a long period of time, or when learn that you have a repetitive-stress fracture, it’s time to research what risks you have been exposed to, and how that might have contributed to your illness.
For example, if you read the facts about lung cancer, you will find that a wide range of chemicals commonly found in construction, transportation, and manufacturing are carcinogenic, including “arsenic, uranium, beryllium, vinyl chloride, nickel chromates, coal products, mustard gas, chloromethyl ethers, gasoline and diesel exhaust” (according to the Regional Cancer Care Associates). Many of these seem exotic, but what if years of warehouse work has subjected you to diesel exhaust exposure? If you are aware of the risks beforehand, that can help you avoid them, and help doctors diagnose what the issue might be once you’re sick.