Nobody ever shows up to work in the morning expecting to get hurt, but it happens. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are 3 million nonfatal workplace accidents in a given year. This means roughly 3.5 percent of the workforce is injured in any given calendar year. The vast majority of these cases (roughly 95 percent) result from occupational injuries.
If there’s any good news in these situations, it’s that systems are in place to protect employees, their health, and their finances. Unfortunately, there’s also a lot of misinformation.
Setting the Record Straight
“When you’re on the clock, there’s almost always the chance of a work-related injury. Whether you’re a construction worker, a factory employee, or even working at a desk, you could suffer a serious injury that leaves you suffering physical and financial consequences,” Jaghab Jaghab & Jaghab explains.
As an employee, it’s important that you understand how workers’ compensation works and what sorts of protections are in place to safeguard your best interests. This means setting the record straight on myths like these:
1. Your Employer Doesn’t Have to Carry Workers’ Comp Coverage
There’s a misconception that businesses have the option of carrying workers’ compensation insurance and that, because of this, only some employees are protected. However, nothing could be further from the truth.
While laws are different in every state, almost every business with one or more full-time employee has to carry some type of insurance policy. Check this handy guide to see what the requirements are in your state.
2. You Have to Put in a Minimum Number of Hours to Qualify
Injured employees often make the mistake of believing that they have to work for their employer for a certain amount of time before they qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Fortunately, this isn’t true. Every employee is covered from the date of hiring to the final day of work for any work-related injury or illness. As long as you can demonstrate correlation between your work duties and your injuries, you’ll be able to successfully obtain the approval needed for workers’ compensation benefits.
3. Pre-Existing Injuries Mean No Benefits
Just because you have a pre-existing condition, doesn’t mean you’re totally unprotected in the workplace. Contrary to popular belief, it’s still possible to receive compensation.
In order to receive benefits for a pre-existing injury, it must be proven that it was temporarily or permanently aggravated by a work-related incident. Common examples of pre-existing injuries that are aggravated in the workplace include spine, hip, knee, neck, and shoulder injuries.
4. You Can’t See Your Own Doctor After a Workplace Injury
After your injury, your employer can require you to see a doctor of their choice for a one-time evaluation. The key descriptor is “one-time.” After this evaluation, you’re completely within your rights to use your own doctor for treatment. (Just make sure the treatment being provided to you is both reasonable and necessary. If it appears that you’re getting superfluous care, your expenses may not be covered by workers’ compensation.)
5. You Could be Fired for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim
It is illegal for an employer to fire, demote, reassign, or punish an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. This means you never have to consider whether or not filing a claim will cost you your job. However, just because you file a claim, doesn’t mean you’re invincible from everything.
“Even though you’re protected from retaliation, filing a workers’ comp claim doesn’t mean your employer can’t let you go for another legitimate reason,” Lawyers.com points out. “For instance, it probably wouldn’t be considered illegal retaliation if you lost your job after you were injured as part of departmental or company-wide layoffs, or if you had a documented history of poor performance or discipline problems.”
Hire the Right Workers’ Comp Lawyer
If you find yourself in a situation where you’ve been hurt on the job, never assume that your employer is looking out for your best interests. They have a bottom line to protect and will do everything they can to protect themselves. By hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer, you can avoid making mistakes that could potentially cost you thousands of dollars.
The key is to hire the right workers’ compensation lawyer for your needs. You want someone who is experienced and tenacious. Your lawyer should aggressively fight for your needs first. Everything else should come second.