When you are injured on the job, or even if you work a job with a high potential for injury, it is helpful to research helpful tips and advice. It may also be helpful to read about some of the most common myths associated with a workers’ comp case.
If you have sustained an injury on the job, or if you’re suffering from a work-related illness, the following habits can be helpful in protecting your eligibility for workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation benefits mainly cover two things. The first is lost wages due to missing work while recovering from your injury. The second, yet just as important, is coverage and/or reimbursement for any medical care you may need. These two benefits are crucial since, after a work-related injury, you have very expensive bills coming in and no income to pay them. This is why workers’ comp benefits are required by the state, making the insurance company obligated to assist with these two issues. Workers’ compensation benefits do cover other issues, like death benefits, new job training, and compensation for extreme physical disablement, but these are less common.
During the early phases of treatment for your work-related injuries or conditions, the full extent of your medical condition will likely not be known. For this reason, the number of doctor visits you have will depend on the nature and severity of your injury or injuries. As different doctors seek to test, diagnosis, and treat you, you may end up seeing numerous doctors. This multitude of doctor visits could go on for years or you may receive the full extent of required treatment in a few weeks or months.
Because of this, it may be best to begin to keep a journal of sorts to keep each visit organized and to help you remember all the essentials. For example, you may want to write down any future appointments you have, who the doctor is, why you are seeing them, etc. Further, this is good a time to write down any questions you might have. If they are written down, you are less likely to forget. After the appointment, write down what was discussed. This tip is especially helpful if you have multiple injuries and are seeing multiple doctors. Later, it may be hard to recall exactly what each doctor said, their recommendations, etc. If you take notes at the time of the event, you can just flip back to that page later and everything that happened will be right there.
For each doctor’s office, you visit, make sure to bring along copies of any MRIs or diagnostic scans you may have. A helpful habit to adopt is keeping these diagnostic records with you. If you keep these records in your car or on hand and bring them to your appointments, you’ll have them available for any medical specialist you wants to see them. If you attend an appointment with a doctor who was expecting you to have a copy of the results from your diagnostic testing to review, and you don’t have them, the appointment will need to be re-scheduled. These kinds of situations will cause an unnecessary delay in your treatment. It is difficult enough to receive treatment in a timely manner through workers’ comp as it is. Anything you can do to help expedite the process will benefit you in the long run.
Medical Records, Prescriptions, Medical Referrals:
If you are provided any documentation after your doctor visit, such as work restrictions, prescriptions, or referral recommendations, provide that documentation to your attorney. If you are not represented, you should still hold on to such documentation from your authorized medical visits. If your employer wants to see any documentation concerning work restrictions, keep a copy in a designated file folder and provide the record to your employer. This brings up another important point that will make life much easier while going through all these complicated tasks, treatments and appointments.
Create a file folder that is specifically for your workers’ comp claim information. It is best if this is a large expanding file. There will be lots of paperwork—emphasis on a lot—plus things like CDs with copies of scans. Additionally, there will be paperwork from your attorney, insurance company, etc. Having them all organized in one place is extremely helpful.
At our law firm, we ask that our clients keep us up to date with any medical opinions they receive that we don’t already have records of. We request medical records on behalf of our clients from various treating providers on a regular and routine basis. Although we submit these medical record requests, we encourage clients to keep medical records they may receive from any doctor’s offices on hand and available to us. Again, doing so can help reduce the time that might be involved in filing a Petition for Benefits on your behalf. It is a helpful habit to keep all this medical documentation—plus any other documentation—available for your employer and for your attorney.
If you are released to work but given restrictions by you assigned medical provider (meaning, your doctor has officially cleared you to return to work but with limitations like ‘light duty’ or ‘no heavy lifting’), your employer has to make a decision about whether or not they can accommodate your medical restrictions. If they cannot provide or find an accommodating position, then you will be entitled to ‘temporary partial disability benefits.’ This only occurs if the physical limitations resulting from your work injury continue for seven (7) consecutive days during a 21 day period.
One of the biggest issues we see occurs at the point when the employer gives notice to the employee that they have an accommodating position. At this point, a few complications can arise.
Once the employer informs the employee that an accommodating position exists, the injured employee is obligated to at least attempt the new position. If the patient doesn’t think the accommodating position meets the employee’s doctor-ordered restrictions, they can return to the authorized doctor and discuss the physical demands inherent within the accommodating position and why they feel like they can’t perform the new tasks. The employee can then obtain that authorized doctor’s opinion regarding whether the job offered is within the restrictions given. If the doctor agrees, they will issue an order for the employer to change the position or offer the temporary partial disability benefits.
If the employee refuses to work in the accommodating position, without ever attempting to try the positon out, then the employee will likely lose their eligibility for wage loss benefits. The refusal to work in the position offered will be considered a ‘voluntary limitation of income.’ In addition, most employers will see the conduct involved in the refusal as job abandonment and determine the person to be terminated with cause. Although it is illegal for an employer to fire an employee just because they are injured, the above circumstances of termination are perfectly legitimate.
A helpful habit after an injury on the job is to make a good faith attempt to work at any accommodating positions offered. It is understandable that you may not want to return to work with an employer you sustained an injury working for. Likewise, there may be a discrepancy between what the doctor thinks about your injury and the pain level you are actually experiencing. Just because a doctor has recommended that you return to work with certain limitations, does not mean you have to perform that duty with no questions asked; but, you do have to at least attempt to work with the new accommodations. The potential for negative repercussions that result from a refusal to return to work, often creates the most issues.
Hiring an Attorney
Once you retain an attorney, they will be able to guide your case’s needs more specifically. Everyone’s situation is different, but having an attorney who has been through hundreds of cases can be a big help.
If you’re uncertain about what workers’ comp benefits you’re entitled to receive or whether you are currently receiving all the benefits that you’re entitled to, contact an attorney.
Even if you are not sure about hiring an attorney, you have absolutely nothing to lose by attending a free consultation. There is obviously no pressure or obligation to hire that attorney; it’s a time to gain credible information. From there, you can decide what plan of action is best for you.
At Sibley Dolman Gipe Accident Injury Lawyers, PA, we strive to provide experienced, personal representation to our injured clients. We really do want to be different than all the rest. To ensure this is possible, we only take the amount of cases that we can handle properly. For us, it is about quality over quantity. In an effort to provide personal service, every client has their attorney’s cell phone number and email address. This way, no client feels as if their case is not important. Have a question? Just contact us and ask.
You are welcome to contact our office at any time for a free consultation. Remember, there are limitations regarding the amount of time a person has to report and injury. We can be reached by calling 727-451-6900 or by emailing us on our Contact Page.