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Top Ten Questions About Workers Compensation On-The-Job Injuries
By Randy Sieberg, CIC, ARM, CRM

1. What do I do if I get hurt at work?

If you are hurt at work you should notify your immediate supervisor and request medical treatment as soon as possible. If you work for a large company you should also contact your human resources department and make sure a workers compensation claim is filed. Your human resources department may have specific actions which they will want you to follow. You should always refer to your employee handbook, issued by your employer, as a guide. Your employer may direct you to a specific medical provider who will handle your workers compensation claim. You may think your injury is not serious but it is important that you follow all the steps outlined by your employer. Keep in mind that some long term health issues may not develop immediately so you want to make sure you are protecting your future access to the work comp claims process by doing all that is requested of you. This protects your future rights.

2. What if my injuries keep me from returning to my job?

Workers compensation provides for your vocational rehabilitation. This help is usually provided through your employer's workers compensation insurance company. Rehabilitation requirements placed on your employer will be dictated by your specific states workers compensation statutes.

3. How long can I receive work comp benefits?

When you have a workers compensation claim and receive medical treatment but don't lose any time from work, your claim will normally close within one year from the date of your last medical treatment. If your injuries were significant enough that you were off from work to recover and were collecting weekly benefits, you can expect your claim to close two years from the last date you received compensation.

4. If I'm injured on the job what kind of benefits will I receive?

You should receive medical treatment for the injury or sickness, replacement for lost wages, and compensation for permanent disability that's caused by the injury you sustained.

5. What if I'm killed because of an injury or accident at work?

Death benefits for work related accidents or injuries depend on your specific state statutes. Normally your dependents will be entitled to some form of income replacement based on your wage for some limited period of time. In addition there are normally benefits which will help offset burial costs.

6. Can I make a claim on my health insurance and workers compensation for the same injury?

Some employers offer their work force supplemental insurance coverage which the employee may secure and pay for at a reduced cost. We've all seen the advertisements with the "duck" and know there are many types of supplemental insurance available. Some supplemental insurance may provide you with additional compensation for lost time which would be allowed in most states. However, your health insurance carrier will seek to coordinate benefits with any other insurance available such as workers compensation. The basic premise is you should not incur a gain due to an on the job injury and that workers compensation is the sole remedy for injuries.

7. If I file a workers compensation claim can I be fired?

It is against federal and state law for an employer to fire an employee for filing a workers' compensation claim.

8. Can I use my own doctor?

Generally the employer has the right to send you to whatever doctor they want. These types of questions will normally be answered by your human resources department. In reality you will be working with your employers workers compensation insurance carrier and depending on the severity of your injuries will work through doctors and specialists they determine best for your condition.

9. Do I have to take a modified work duty job?

Your employer will want to get you back to work as soon as possible. Return to work programs have proven positive effects on recovering workers. While you may not be able to get back to your previous work duties during rehabilitation, a modified work job will keep you in touch with your workplace and will help mitigate the workers compensation expense that your employer has incurred. Most return to work programs are outlined by the human resources department and you should consult with them about your options for early return to work.

10. What if my employer does not have workers compensation coverage and I'm injured?

You will need to check with the governing body in the state where you reside for information concerning employers in violation of workers compensation statutes. Most states provide a mechanism for you to file a work comp claim directly through the state. However this will be state specific and you will need to check for your individual circumstance. You will find that most states impose serious fines and legal action, including criminal action, against employers who do not fulfill their responsibilities to their employees.

This article is brought to you by WorkCompConsultants.com, an independent workers compensation consulting firm dedicated to helping employers prevent and resolve work comp issues.