Being injured on the job can often be a stressful experience. Not only do you need to deal with the direct effects of your injury, but you must also navigate an unfamiliar claims process while potentially being unable to work. Often, this process will be started by your employer, and you will be guided through it in part by the workers' compensation insurance company. In many cases, both of these parties may gloss over small details that they feel are unnecessary to explain or they may provide information in large packets that are difficult to quickly parse and understand.
1. Workers' Compensation Laws Vary by State
Many people are surprised to find that most details of workers' compensation laws are state-based rather than federally mandated. Not only this, but the laws themselves can vary fairly drastically between states. Not all states require that all business with employees even have workers' compensation insurance, for example. In many cases, state law will only stipulate that a business provides workers' compensation insurance if the number of people that it employs meets a particular minimum. Others exempt certain types of businesses or self-employed individuals if they do not meet minimum gross payroll amounts.
2. You May Be Able to Choose Your Own Doctor
Unfortunately, this is another aspect of workers' compensation law that will vary from state to state. If you are filing a claim for workers' compensation, it is important to research your state laws and determine if you can select a doctor yourself and what restrictions are placed on your selection. Doing this research on your own is vital, as your employer may not immediately disclose this option. Also, keep in mind that many states may require that you visit a doctor selected by your employer or their insurance for your initial consultation, but allow you to select a different doctor for follow-up appointments or treatment.
3. You Are Entitled to Lost Wages
Workers' compensation isn't just about paying for medical bills; it is also about making sure that you are compensated for your inability to work. Depending on the severity of the injury, this may simply mean receiving pay for time spent recovering, or it may mean long-term temporary disability payments if your injury limits you from working. These payments usually amount to roughly two-thirds of your previous pay amount, although they may be less than this in the case of partial temporary disability. Temporary partial disability specifically exists to compensate you if you are still able to work, but only at a job which pays less than your previous position.
4. Your Employer Is Not Necessarily on Your Side
The vast majority of workers' compensation claims are filed in good faith, and injured employees often expect that their employer will do everything in their power to help. Sadly, this is not always the case, and many employers will choose to either actively fight workers' compensation claims or be less than helpful in pursuing them. It is important to remember that workers' compensation is no-fault insurance, so it is not at all necessary for you to feel that you are in an adversarial relationship with your employer or that you must establish that the accident was due to a failure on the part of your employer. Instead, focus on getting the best care and treatment possible, and seek legal help immediately if you feel that your claim is being handled improperly.