Workplace injuries are extremely common, so, first of all, don’t feel you’re “odd” or a “special case.” Employers know that workplace injuries are a business risk. That’s why most employers carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workers’ compensation insurance works pretty much the same way as other insurance policies. The employer, whether it’s a big corporation or a sole proprietorship, pays a premium to the insurance carrier, so that when one of his, or its, employees are injured, the employer is not out of pocket for the damages.
So what’s the catch? Insurance companies only pay “compensable” claims. Just because you think you have a compensable claim does not mean the insurance company will automatically start cutting you checks. There are many hurdles standing between you and your benefits.
This where a personal injury attorney comes in. A knowledgeable and experienced lawyer will help you navigate your claim through the legal and factual obstacle course that sinks many otherwise valid claims.
What do I have to do to get my workers’ compensation benefits?
The first thing you need to do when you are hurt at work is to report it to your immediate supervisor. This is called giving your employer “notice” of your injury. If you don’t carry anything else away from this blog, remember this: tell your employer how you were injured, where the accident happened, what body part or parts are injured, when you were injured, and then make sure you ask to see a doctor.
Upon receiving notice, your employer or his representative should fill out an incident report narrating the facts of your case. Make sure you get a copy of this report. Make several copies of it. After this, your employer may refer to an in-house doctor. In-house doctors are becoming more and more common in big corporations. If your employer has no in-house physician, he will probably refer you to a private group that customarily deals with that employer — usually what I call a “doc-in-a-box.” These are private emergency medical clinics. Some are quite good, others provide questionable services. In any event, if your employer refers you to a doctor, you must go. Don’t worry, you have the right to demand alternate care and get a second opinion. But at this stage, you need to give your employer the chance to provide medical treatment. Failing to go to your employer’s doctor could seriously jeopardize your case.
When you meet with your employee’s doctor, say as little as possible about the facts and circumstances of your case as anything you say can be used against you later on. But the same token, be careful filling out the doctor’s intake form. Again, you are essentially making a statement and any inconsistencies with what you report and what you later testify to will damage your credibility, and it’s not an overstatement to say that credibility is the single most important factor to consider in any litigation.
Should I go to my family doctor?
If your employer fails to refer you to “the company doctor,” by all means make an appointment to see your family physician. Also, this is another good time to call an experienced personal injury lawyer. Please feel free to call our firm at any time, day or night. If we are not available, leave a message with our answering service. We will get back to you as soon as possible.
Be careful what you say to your family doctor. Although she is “on your side”, she may report damaging statements you make, not knowing any better because she is not a lawyer. If you don’t have a family doctor, go the emergency room or ask your attorney to refer you to a doctor. He or she should have a network of generalists and specialists ready and willing to examine you, treat you, and if necessary, provide a medical opinion as to the seriousness of your injury, what treatment is necessary, and what, if any, future care you may need.
What if I am unable to return to work?
If your injury results in your being unable to return to work at full duty in a full duty, the insurance carrier should begin paying you what’s called “temporary total disability,” i.e., your weekly checks, as long as the authorized physician has written a note excusing you from work because of the nature of your injury. Make a copy of this and make sure it gets to your employer who should forward it to the carrier. If you are not receiving checks, call your lawyer and she should get on the phone with the carrier and raise a ruckus. Believe me, unless you are independently wealthy, you’ll need that money. Deliver a copy of the doctor’s excuse to your attorney as well as all other documentation pertaining to your case. Remember, giving your lawyer too much information is better than giving him too little.
There are many other pitfalls to avoid when trying to get your benefits. If you’ve been hurt at work, call us immediately at 864.233.2000 in Greenville and 591.1114 in a Spartanburg. We’ll safeguard the integrity of your case and get you the money you need and deserve.
Good luck and be careful out there. Remember, you are not alone. We’re only a phone call away.