What Are My Rights After I Was Injured At Work?
If you have suffered a work-related injury, there are both federal and state laws in place to protect you. Unfortunately, employers do not always abide by these laws. This puts you in a position where you may need to fight for the compensation you deserve. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can work with you to guide you through the process, and ensure you know what rights are available to you after you are injured at work.
What Is a Work Injury?
Work injuries refer to any physical or psychological harm suffered on the job, on the way to a job site or because of the job. Not all work injuries are eligible for compensation, and this can vary based on applicable laws and the specifics of the situation. Because of this, it is important to review federal laws, state laws, local laws, labor union agreements, work contracts, work policies and OSHA guidelines.
What Are the Main Types of Work Injuries?
The complexities around what injuries are eligible often discourage workers from pursuing the compensation they deserve. Employers may also use this to their advantage by allowing workers to believe only obvious work-accident injuries qualify for compensation or are worth pursuing. Here are the four main types of injuries you could receive workers’ compensation for:
1. Workplace Accidents
These include slip-and-fall accidents, falls, dismemberments and other incidents that can happen on the job. Some accidents that happen away from the worksite may also qualify. For instance, a security officer who must patrol several sites each shift could receive compensation if he or she suffers injuries in a car crash while traveling between work sites.
2. Occupational Illnesses
Some work-related physical injuries take time to develop and manifest as diseases or chronic conditions. For instance, a construction worker who usually does the drilling may eventually suffer from hearing loss or an animal control officer could get rabies from the animals he or she works with.
3. Repetitive Motion Injuries
Some injuries take time to develop because they result from completing the same task over and over again. Also known as repetitive stress, these motions put pressure on ligaments, muscles, tendons or nerves. Tendonitis and carpal tunnel syndrome are the most common examples of such injuries.
4. Psychological Harm
Post-traumatic stress disorders suffered by soldiers and first responders immediately come to mind when most people hear of psychological harm at work. However, any worker can develop PTSD symptoms if they experience or witness traumatizing incidents at work, such as a mass shooting. Other psychological conditions that may qualify include burnout and stress.
What Rights Do I Have After Being Injured At Work?
The specific protections at your disposal depend on the applicable laws in your area and contracts governing your work. This makes it impossible to supply a general answer that applies to all counties and cities in all 50 states. If you are injured at work, an experienced workers’ compensation attorney can review your specific case and tell you what your rights are, but here are some general protections most workers have:
- The right to disability benefits if your injuries make you temporarily or permanently unable to work
- The right to file a claim in the state’s industrial court or workers’ compensation court
- Right to return to work once your physician provides permission for you to do so
- Right to seek medical treatment for your injuries
- The right to seek legal representation
- The right to appeal decisions made by your employer, its insurance company or the relevant courts
You also have legal protections against your employer retaliating for filing a claim. Such retaliation can include the following actions:
- Reducing your work hours
- Creating a hostile work environment
- Denying promotions you are eligible for without good reason
- Demoting you
- Refusing to make reasonable accommodation
- Terminating you and others involved with the case
Unfortunately, legal protection does not mean your employer will not take any of these actions. The protections mean only that should your employer act unlawfully, you can seek legal recourse to overturn its decisions.
How Do I Report a Work Injury?
Your work contract and applicable laws in your area determine how you should report a work injury. The good news is that most follow a standard set of guidelines. Here are general tips to keep in mind.
Seek Medical Attention
No matter how minor your injuries are, always seek medical attention. Some injuries take some time to develop, so your employer might argue the cause resides outside of work when you report the injury later on without an appropriate medical record.
Notify Your Employer
Even if you did not suffer any major injuries, report the incident to your employer. If you suffer injuries a second or third time, you will have records to show that your employer was aware of the incident.
When you notify your employer of the accident, try to do so using methods you can track. For instance, if there is a designated form to fill out, keep a copy. Sending an email or using certified mail are also great ways to leave a paper trail. You should also keep any other evidence you have, such as eyewitness statements, video footage and medical records.
File a Claim
Your attorney can advise you on how and when to file a claim with the state. Note that there is a statute of limitations on workplace injuries, so keep this in mind as you go through the process.
Should I Involve an Attorney?
Workers’ compensation cases can become extremely complex in some states. In others, politicians have gone to great lengths to chip away at the available protections. Florida, Oklahoma, Georgia, Illinois and Delaware are just some of the states that enacted legislation to limit eligibility or payment of benefits.
An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you navigate any complexities and restrictions you might encounter along the way. Should your employer or its insurance company become combative or the need arises for a court case, an attorney can provide invaluable guidance. Don’t leave it to chance if your rights are being violated after you are injured at work.
When choosing legal counsel, you should always try to work with a professional who has years of experience. The trouble is finding one. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!