If you're injured in an accident at work, you'll probably be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. Nearly every employer is required by state law to provide workers' compensation insurance coverage for its employees.
If you suffer a job-related injury, the following information will help you protect your legal rights.
Many states have very short deadlines by which you must report an accident in order to be covered under workers' compensation laws. As a result, you should report any accident in which you're involved on the job, whether or not you believe you're injured.
Even if you come away from the accident unscathed, your report could cause your employer to implement new safety measures that will prevent an injury from happening to you or someone else in the future. In addition, filing an incident report immediately protects you if you don't experience symptoms until weeks or even months after the accident.
Laws in every state except Texas require most employers to obtain workers' compensation insurance. The laws provide that, generally speaking, employees can't sue their employers over workplace injuries. The flip side is that the employee doesn't have to prove that the employer's negligence caused the injury. In fact, the employee can be compensated even if the employee's own negligence caused the injury.
One major exception to the general rule forbidding lawsuits is in cases involving asbestos exposure. If you've been exposed to asbestos and suffer from mesothelioma or other asbestos-related health issues, you might be able to sue your employer or a third party for damages.
There are some instances in which an employee's injuries won't be covered by workers' comp laws. For example, if an employee is intoxicated or using illegal drugs at the time of the incident, that employee's injuries won't be covered. Consequently, some employers have a policy requiring employees involved in workplace accidents to submit to drug tests.
Injuries that occur during an individual's commute or due to workplace fighting or horseplay are also usually excluded from coverage.
You should see a doctor as soon as possible following an accident at work. If the injury warrants it, go to the emergency room. If you're not seriously injured, you should ask your employer if they require you to see a certain doctor or if you can choose which doctor to go to.
If your employer chooses the doctor and you're not satisfied with how things went at your visit, you might want to consider seeing another doctor of your own choosing. You might be entitled to a second opinion under the workers' compensation laws. Even if workers' compensation won't pay for you to see a different doctor, it may be worth it to you to pay for it yourself. Depending on the extent of your injuries, you could stand to lose much more in benefits than it will cost you to get an evaluation by a different doctor. If you have health insurance, your doctor's visit may be covered by it.
It is up to your employer to file a workers' compensation claim with their insurance company on your behalf. They won't know to do this until you let them know you are injured.
If you reported the accident, but didn't know you were injured at the time, let your employer know as soon as you discover your injury. Follow up to make sure that a workers' compensation claim is filed. You are entitled to a copy of the workers' compensation claim filed by your employer.
Prior to filing a claim, it's often a good idea to consult with an attorney who has experience handling workers' compensation claims. An initial consultation is usually free and can help you determine what benefits you might be entitled to receive.