by Anne Lane
If you are injured in an accident at work you are probably entitled to workers compensation. Nearly every employer is required by state law to provide workers compensation insurance coverage for it's employees. If you suffer a job-related injury, here are a few important tips to protect your legal rights.
You could run into problems if you don't realize that you are injured right away. Many states have a very short period of time in which you must report an accident in order to be covered under workers compensation. Because of this, you should report any accident that you are involved in on the job, whether or not you believe you are injured. Even if you are not injured, your report of the incident could cause your employer to implement new safety measures that will prevent an injury from happening to you or someone else in the future.
See Making a Work-Related Accident Report to learn how to cover your legal bases.
Laws in every state except Texas require most employers to obtain workers' compensation insurance. In exchange the laws provide that, for the most part, employees can't sue their employers over workplace injuries. With worker's compensation, 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. However, there are some instances when an employee's injuries won't be covered. One example, if an employee is intoxicated or using illegal drugs at the time of the incident, that employee's injuries won't be covered. Because of that, some employers have a policy of requiring employees involved in work place accidents to submit to drug tests.
You should see a doctor as soon as possible following an accident at work. If the injury warrants it, go to the emergency room. However, if you are 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 are not satisfied with how things went at your visit, you may want to consider seeing another doctor of your own choosing. You may 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 worker's compensation claim is filed. You are entitled to a copy of the workers' compensation claim filed by your employer.
You may want to consult an attorney with experience handling workers' compensation claims. An initial consultation is usually free and an attorney will be able to help you determine what benefits you may be entitled to receive.
See the related article, "Frequently Asked Questions About Workers' Compensation" for more information. For in-depth articles on work injury claims, see Alllaw's category page on Workers Compensation Laws.