What if your worst day at work somehow got even worse?
Plenty of people think they've had terrible days on the clock. But nothing is worse than when you have to say those five dreaded words: "I got injured at work."
When this happens, you may not know what to do. Even your employer may not know for sure. That's why it's important to develop a gameplan well before disaster strikes.
Not sure where to get started? Here are the steps you should take to make sure you're okay.
- Report It (In Writing)
The first thing you need to do after a workplace injury is really simple. However, it's arguably the most important step: you must report your injury to a supervisor.
While your employer may require only a verbal report of the accident, it's best to file everything in writing. This creates a literal "paper trail" and makes it difficult for shady employers to later deny that anything happened.
Additionally, a written report can help you out when you seek workers' compensation. That entire process can be lengthy and annoying, and anything you can do to make it easier is worth doing.
Furthermore, promptly reporting an injury helps you kickstart some difficult questions between you and your employer. You'll now have an opportunity to discuss your plans to file for compensation, medical care plans, and how the injury may affect your job performance.
It's important to know your rights during all of this. For example, all employers are required to have workers' compensation insurance in place. Any employer who tells you otherwise is either lying to you or operating their business in defiance of the law.
- Seek Medical Treatment
If you've been hurt at your workplace, it's important to seek medical treatment right away. And your employer is obligated to provide a list of approved doctors for you to see.
These are doctors chosen by your employer to take care of your medical needs. Furthermore, the costs of your treatment will be paid for via workers' compensation insurance, so you don't have to worry about the cost.
What if your employer takes too long getting the list of approved doctors to you? In that case, you can go to the doctor of your choice. This is particularly important if there is an emergency and you can't afford to wait.
No matter which doctor you end up seeing, the costs will be covered by your employer. Try to keep detailed records of your medical treatment in case you need them in the future.
- File For Workers' Compensation
In order to get benefits from worker's compensation, you'll need to report the incident within a certain amount of time. For example, the state of Georgia requires that you file a claim no later than one year after the date of the original workplace incident.
Certain factors may actually extend this deadline. It's important to understand these factors to make sure that you can file your claim in a timeline manner.
First, you must file one year after becoming aware of the injury, not the date of the actual accident. This is important because you may not know the full extent of an injury or disease until days or even weeks later.
Second, your employer may pay for some of your medical treatments after the accident. In that case, you have one year to file after the last treatment your employer pays for. That's why it's helpful to know ahead of time exactly what your employer will (and will not) cover.
Third, your employer may offer weekly income benefits after the accident. If this is the case, you have two years from the date of the last benefit payment.
Keep in mind that these statutes of limitations are specific to the state of Georgia. If you are located in another state, research all relevant statutes immediately after the accident.
It may still be possible to file a claim after the deadline has passed. To maximize your odds of this, you may want to see out a skilled workers comp attorney (more on this later).
- Consider Professional Representation
A common question after a workplace accident is, "do I need to hire a lawyer?" The honest answer to this question is both "yes" and "no."
There is no legal requirement for you to hire an attorney before you file a workers' compensation claim. There are plenty of workers who file such claims every day without any additional help.
With that being said, it's worth having a lawyer in your corner. Experienced workers' comp attorneys know how to understand all of the paperwork and can do everything they can to get your claim approved.
Having an attorney is a real "win/win" for you in this scenario. With any luck, they can help get your claim approved right away. And if the initial claim should be denied, you'll already have a lawyer familiar with your case who can appeal that decision.
And, as we mentioned earlier, a lawyer may be able to help you file a claim even if the statute of limitations has already passed. All it takes is a quick consultation for them to evaluate your chances.
- Time Is Not On Your Side
As cheerful as it sounds, there is one thing you must understand throughout all of this: time is very much not on your side.
If you wait too long to file a report, it can slow down getting you proper medical treatment. If you wait too long to file a claim, you may risk getting no compensation at all.
Your best odds of getting your claim approved is to take care of everything as soon as possible. Use this guide to maximize your odds without wasting another minute!
"I Got Injured At Work!" What Comes Next?
If you've ever said "I got injured at work," you now know what to do next. But do you know how to stay on top of other important workplace news?
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