People get injured on the job every day, but many of them don’t know what to do. How do you know if you have a claim or if a lawyer would be interested in hearing your case? Darren Shoen, with the Law offices of Darren Shoen, shares some of his top need-to-know tips.
The basics about work-related injuries
If you get hurt at work, notify your employer right away. Next, file a claim with the state agency that handles these situations. For people who reside within the state of Virginia, you can file for benefits with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission based in Richmond online, by phone, or by email. Do this as soon as possible. Delaying could prevent you from getting your benefits.
Get medical care. Tell the doctor, assistant, or nurse about your aches and pains. Get a copy of your medical records, as well. Having documented proof of your injuries will significantly help your case.
Seek legal help as soon as possible. Find an experienced, knowledgeable attorney and meet with them. Consultations are often free. Don’t worry about upsetting the insurance company or your employer. You must protect yourself. Who else will?
Choose your doctor
In most cases, after an injury, employers should provide employees with a list, also called a “panel,” of three doctors to choose from. However, in his experience, Shoen has seen insurance companies “guide” injured workers to use doctors they like. When this happens, that doctor has become your treating physician, it becomes harder to switch.
The same applies if you need follow-up care from an Orthopedic doctor or pain management specialist. Do not let the insurance adjuster or case nurse pick the doctor. You have a right to a choice by law in Virginia. The workers’ comp insurance company should provide a list of doctors and treatment providers. Remember to get quality legal help soon after you’re injured.
Can I get fired because I got hurt?
If your employer has worker’s compensation insurance, they are not allowed to fire you just because you got hurt and filed a workers’ comp claim. However, this situation can get complicated and is another reason you need the advice and guidance of an attorney. An employer can terminate your employment when you have an open workers’ compensation claim if their reason for doing so is unrelated to the filing.
Employers with workers’ compensation insurance should attempt to find a “light duty” job that fits within work restrictions, also known as a “reasonable accommodation.” If you are unable to work, the employer has the right to fill a permanent position with a non-disabled person. If your doctor has you on “light duty” restrictions, you may be required to look for “light duty” employment to receive workers’ compensation wage benefits.
For more guidance on how to comply with job search requirements for works comp, click here.
Do I need a lawyer if the insurance company is paying for medical care or paying wages while I’m unable to work?
You have rights under the law that insurance companies will not discuss with you. Insurance companies are in the business to make money. For example, if you are on a “lifetime medical award,” that award is only valuable if the insurance company honors it. The insurance company knows how to fight against the award in hope that you will give up. Shoen urges you not to give up and speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Why won’t workers’ comp cover my work injury?
The answer depends on your specific situation. However, Shoen suggests not relying on insurance adjusters to make the final decision. If an insurance company denies your claim, that doesn’t necessarily mean your claim is denied.
The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission enforces your rights under the law in Virginia (and in every state in the U.S.). This means that you can demand a hearing. Judges make the final decision as to whether the workers’ compensation insurance company covers your injury.
I don’t want to “hurt” my boss by filing workers’ comp claims
If you get hurt at work, a good employer will help you get the care and compensation you need. Shoen says if your employer makes you feel guilty about getting injured on the job, your loyalty is misplaced.
Also, consider that a work injury could be with you for the rest of your life. If you have a spouse, children, or others that need your care, you need a healthy body to provide for yourself and others.
I got hurt while traveling out of state for my job. Will workers comp cover this?
If you were injured out of state, this doesn’t mean workers’ comp won’t cover you, Shoen explains. If you are a Virginia worker, it doesn’t mean you can’t file a claim in Virginia. It depends on specific details about your case. It’s best to seek the advice of an experienced injured workers’ lawyer.
The statements contained herein are for general information purposes only. This is NOT to be considered specific legal advice to your situation as Mr. Shoen would need to meet with you individually to ensure client confidentiality and would need additional information not provided in this question. This response does not create an attorney-client relationship. Please consult directly with an attorney for legal advice.