What happens after you’ve been injured on the job? The question might be a simple one, but the answer is a lot more complex. Your state, employer, and even your type of injury can play a role in your experience within the workers’ comp system.
Each point within your workers’ comp journey can cause a new question to be asked – like what happens next. Because this time can be difficult on you and your family, these next six questions can help point you in the right direction.
1. I’ve been injured on the job, what do I do now?
If your injury requires immediate medical attention, your first step should be to seek medical treatment. After you’ve seen a healthcare professional to assess or treat your injury, your next step is to report your injury to your employer. This could be your direct manager, the owner of the company or your human resources team, but aside from who you report this to, the most important thing is to document the injury.
Since each state has its own unique laws and regulations for workers’ comp, the timeline of reporting can be different depending on which state you live in. For instance, In New York injured workers have 30 days after the date of injury to inform their employer, while injured workers in Nebraska have up to two years from their date of injury to file a claim.
Typically, a First Report of Injury, or similar document, will be completed by your employer. An employer cannot file this document without first knowing about your injury in a timely manner, so be sure to make your employer aware as soon as possible.
2. Can my employer fire me for filing a workers’ comp claim?
Firing an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim is considered retaliation and illegal in most states. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) even has whistle-blower protections in place for employees who report unsafe or hazardous working conditions.
While your employer cannot fire you simple for being injured at work. There are other instances where an employee may be fired or laid off while out on workers’ comp benefits, but these should in no way be tied to filing or reporting your injury.
3. Who will treat me for my workers’ comp injury?
Just like each state has its own set of rules for the timelines of reporting an injury, each state has its own guidelines in place of who should be treating your injury or illness. In Florida, for example, you must treat with a doctor that has been approved by your workers’ comp insurance carrier. But in Georgia, your employer will provide you with a panel of six or more non-associated medical facilities to choose from. If your employer does not share this panel with you, you may have the power to choose a doctor of your preference. If this is the case, it’s always good to consult your attorney before making a decision.
4. Do I need to hire an attorney?
Not all workers’ comp claims require you to hire an attorney. However, if you are dealing with consistent rejections, denials and delays from your insurance carrier or employer it may be something you want to consider. Your workers’ comp attorney will help fight to get you the medical and indemnity benefits that you deserve.
Consider this, if you have injured your back at work your doctor may prescribe you a pain reliever. After several sleepless nights due to back pain, your doctor may prescribe a sleep aid in conjunction with the pain reliever. This might help your body recover faster by allowing your back injury to rest and heal without constantly tossing and turning. It’s likely that your insurance carrier may deny the sleep aid stating that is not related to your injury. This is when an attorney would step in and help fight to get your treatment approved. While it is not mandatory, it is something to consider if you are seeing these types of issues.
5. Can I use my normal pharmacy?
Some states have the power of telling you where you can fill your workers’ compensation medications, like New York. Others, like Florida and New Hampshire, include directly in their statute that the patient has the ultimate choice.
Aside from the laws, you may find that your normal pharmacy won’t fill your medications because of prior-authorization issues with the insurance carrier. This is common among retail pharmacies, who have limited time per patient and will return the prescription if the insurance carrier does not approve it. This will leave you paying out of pocket or going without your medications.
By using a specialized workers’ compensation pharmacy, like Injured Workers Pharmacy, we ship your medications first and work with your insurance carrier after to collect payment. This helps you get your treatment faster and not deal with the additional stress that can prolong your recovery.
6. When will I go back to work?
This question depends on your circumstance. If your injury can be treated with one round of a prescription and a little rest, starting back to work may be much sooner than someone who has had a severe knee injury.
Whenever you return, some employers are helping to make the transition much easier through Return to Work Programs. This initiative helps you slowly transition back into the workforce by working less hours, working from home or making reasonable accommodations so that the work is less physically demanding. If you haven’t already, be sure to keep in contact with your employer to see if they offer a program like this or if they would be willing to work with you on the transition back to work.
Dealing with a workers’ compensation injury can be difficult. There are so many questions to be answered and processes to endure. Be sure to surround yourself with a good team of advocates that will help answer any other questions you may have.