It should go without saying that workplace environments need to be kept as safe and healthy as possible. Each state has laws in place to govern workplace safety. However, not all employers adequately fulfill their duty in this respect, so workers sometimes suffer as a result. Even in the safest, healthiest workplace, workers can still be injured through a fall or by faulty machinery. Systems are in place in each state to help employees who have been injured on the job. Texas is the only state in which employers are not required to have workers’ compensation insurance.
Even though there are variations from state to state in workers’ compensation laws, injured employees in all states do have rights. An injured worker in Pennsylvania may have slightly different rights and different procedures to follow than a worker in New Mexico does, but the regulations were put in place to help the workers.
In general, some specific legal rights are the same across the board regardless of the state. These include:
- The right of employees to file claims for illness or injury in a workers’ compensation court or the industrial court in a state.
- The right to see a physician and receive medical treatment.
- The right to return to work when you are released by the doctor to do so.
- If your illness or injury prevents your return to work, whether temporary or permanent, you are entitled to receive some form of disability compensation.
- The right to appeal if you do not agree with a decision made by the workers’ comp court, the employer’s insurer, or the employer.
- The right to have representation by a workplace injury attorney throughout the entire process.
It is important for injured employees to know they have the right to refuse any offer or request with which they are uncomfortable. For example, if an employer tells injured employees to use their own health insurance to cover medical treatment needed for their work injuries, the employees have the right to refuse. Additionally, if an employer tries to persuade injured employees not to file a claim and offers an incentive, this illegal action should be met with a refusal as well.
Injured workers should be free to pursue their claims without fear of harassment or reprisal from their employers. There are penalties in place that can be very severe for employers who try to hinder the free exercise of injured employees’ rights.
Filing the Workplace Accident Report
There are deadlines for reporting workplace accidents in a timely manner for coverage to be effective under workers’ compensation laws. The deadline periods in some states are very short. Employees need to report all accidents in which they are involved, even if it does not appear there are any injuries. One of the reasons for this action is that a filed report may be the cause for the implementation of new safety means and measures in the workplace. In effect, this could prevent future injuries from happening. Additionally, by filing accident reports right away, employees are protecting themselves should symptoms of injury manifest later on.
Workplace Lawsuits Not Usually Allowed
In general, employees getting workers’ comp benefits are not able to sue their employers over the injuries. The other side of the coin is that no proof is required from the employees showing that their injuries were caused by the employers’ negligence. In reality, even if employees cause their own injuries through negligence, the employees can receive workers’ comp benefits.
An exception to this is asbestos. If asbestos exposure is involved in an employee’s workplace injury, then an employee can file a lawsuit against the employer. Any individual who was exposed to asbestos at work and developed mesothelioma or another asbestos-related health disorder should speak with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney about the right to sue the employer and/or another party to recover damages.
Workplace Injuries Not Covered
In a few instances, employers are not required to make workers’ compensation insurance pay benefits for an employee’s workplace injury. If the worker is taking illegal drugs or is intoxicated when the accident occurs, the injuries are not covered, so some employers require an immediate drug test of employees involved in an accident at work. Additionally, if an individual is traveling to work and gets hurt, or is horsing around or fighting at work, no injuries stemming from these actions will be covered.
See a Physician
Anyone involved in a work accident should immediately see a doctor. If necessary, go to an emergency room. If the injury is not extremely serious, check with the employer concerning which doctor you can see. Determine whether it needs to be a certain doctor or maybe one you choose.
If the employer requires that you see a specific physician, and the results are unsatisfactory to you, consider going to a different physician of your choosing. Workers’ compensation laws may allow for a second opinion, but even if not, it may be to your benefit to pay for a second opinion yourself. If your injuries merit it, you may gain much more in the long run by paying for the second doctor’s evaluation yourself. Your health insurance, if you have any, may cover this visit.
Report Injuries Immediately
The employer is required to file a claim for you with its workers’ compensation insurance provider. However, the employer can only do this after it is notified of your injury. Notify your employer immediately if you reported an accident and did not include details of your injury because you didn’t realize you were injured at the time. Check back with your employer later to ensure that your workers’ compensation claim has been filed. The employer is required to give you a copy of the filed claim.
Contact an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Attorney
The importance of speaking with an experienced workers’ comp lawyer cannot be overemphasized. Even before filing a claim, you need to have proper legal advice that can help close all loopholes. The Eichholz Law Firm offers free case consultations with no obligation. Give us a call today.