Frequently Asked Questions About Workers Compensation

Injured workers have a right to benefits under the workers compensation system. Learn the basics here.

by Rebecca Berlin

What should I do if I am injured at work?

Following any accident at work, it is critical to report the accident to your employer as soon as possible. The time limits vary from state to state, but your claim will be denied if you do not report the accident to your employer within the required time period. Even if you do not think you are injured, you should report workplace accidents to your employer. Sometimes injuries don't become noticeable until after the incident. Report an accident as soon as possible and report injuries as soon as you become aware of them, whether it is at the same time as the accident or later.

See this page on making an accident report for tips on what to include to protect your rights to workers compensation benefits.

Will workers' compensation cover me for work-related illness or injuries that are not the result of an accident?

Yes, workers' compensation will cover you for work related injuries such as repetitive motion injuries. An example of this is carpel tunnel syndrome suffered by workers who do a lot of typing. Workers may develop a variety of illnesses that are related to their jobs. For example, workers in high stress jobs may develop digestive disorders that are related to the stress they experience on the job, or workers who are exposed to a lot of car exhaust on the job may suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning or breathing problems. It really depends on what the particular hazards of the job are, and some people may develop illnesses as a result of them while others do not.

Can I still receive workers compensation benefits if the accident was my fault?

Part of the purpose of the workers compensation system is to provide benefits to injured workers without the need to prove who was at fault for the accident. However, there are some instances when a worker won't receive benefits. For example a worker won't receive benefits for self-inflicted injuries or for injuries that occur when the employee is under the influence of alcohol or illegal drugs.

For more on liability issues in a workers compensation case, see Injury Liability for Workplace Accidents.

Can I see my own doctor?

This will depend on the laws of your state and the requirements of your employer's workers' compensation insurance policy. Ask your employer if they require you to see a certain doctor or if you can choose your own doctor. If you are required to see a doctor chosen by your employer, you may have a right to change doctors after a certain amount of time has passed or to get a second opinion. If you go see your own doctor, the insurance company may still require a medical examination by one of its doctors.

What kind of benefits can I receive from workers' compensation?

This depends on the type and extent of your injury and varies state by state. If your injury prevents you from working for more than a minimum number of days, you will receive temporary disability benefits, which are typically 2/3 of your regular wages. The cost of your medical treatment should be paid for as long as necessary. You may also receive vocational rehabilitation if needed to help you get back to your job or to train you for a new job.

For a complete list of available benefits and the rules on calculating the amount, see this page.

Will I be able to go back to my old job?

If you are able to perform the same type of work after you recover from your injuries, your employer must give you the next position that becomes available, but they don't have to fire the person who replaced you in order to give you your job back. If you are able to work in some other type of job that your employer has available, they should place you in that job.

Do I need an attorney to help me with my workers' compensation claim?

Depending on the extent of your injuries or illness, you may decide that you want or need an attorney to help you with your workers' compensation claim. The greater your injuries, the more you have at stake in the workers' compensation process. If you have been severely injured and/ or think that you will be disabled long-term or permanently, you may want the help of an attorney with experience handling workers' compensation claims to make sure you get all of the benefits to which you are entitled.

If you're considering settling your workers compensation claim, you should absolutely talk to a lawyer before taking any action.

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