Workplace injuries are an unfortunate but common occurrence. In 2021 alone, private industry employers reported 2.6 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses. If you are injured on the job, it’s important to know your rights and the compensation options available.
This article will guide you through the key actions to take after a workplace injury, your legal rights, safeguarding against employer coercion, exploring third-party liability, and navigating the legal landscape.
Immediate Actions to Take After a Workplace Injury
If you are injured at work, there are certain critical steps you need to take right away:
- Report the Injury Immediately: Notify your supervisor and document the incident as soon as possible, even if the injury seems minor at first. There are strict injury reporting deadlines, typically within 30 days. Getting prompt medical attention can also help substantiate your claim.
- File a Workers’ Compensation Claim: Submit a claim for workers’ compensation benefits with your employer and your state’s workers’ compensation board. This formally starts the process for you to access medical care, lost wage replacement, and other benefits through the workers’ compensation system.
- Seek Appropriate Medical Treatment: Get medical care from a licensed healthcare provider right away. Follow prescribed treatments and keep thorough records of all appointments, medications, expenses, diagnostics, and documents related to your injury. Your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance should cover the costs of treatment.
Taking these steps, along with the guidance of a skilled Los Angeles employment attorney, can greatly assist you in navigating the complexities of a workplace injury and ensuring you receive the benefits and care you deserve.
Understanding Your Rights as an Injured Employee
As an employee who suffers an injury in the workplace, you have a number of important legal rights, including:
- The right to file a claim in workers’ compensation court if your claim is wrongfully denied by your employer or their insurance provider.
- The right to prompt and appropriate medical treatment, with all costs covered by your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.
- The right to receive wage replacement benefits for time missed from work due to the injury, through indemnity payments mandated by workers’ compensation laws in your state.
- The right to return to work after recovering from the injury, free from retaliation or discrimination. Employers must make reasonable accommodations for employees with occupational injuries or disabilities.
- If the injury results in a permanent partial or total disability that prevents you from returning to your prior work, you are entitled to receive ongoing disability compensation and, in some cases, job retraining benefits.
- The right to legal representation by an attorney throughout the claims process, beginning immediately after the injury occurs.
In 2021, the total recordable case incidence rate of workplace injuries and illnesses held steady at 2.7 cases per 100 full-time workers. Understanding your wide-ranging rights is essential.
Safeguarding Against Employer Coercion
Workers’ compensation laws strictly prohibit employers from pressuring or coercing employees to avoid filing injury claims or attempting to circumvent the workers’ compensation system. You have the absolute right to refuse any employer requests or offers that infringe upon your workers’ compensation protections, such as:
- Demanding you use your personal health insurance to pay for treatment of a work-related injury instead of filing for workers’ compensation benefits.
- Requiring you to waive your right or eligibility to receive workers’ compensation benefits in exchange for continued employment.
- Discouraging you from reporting injuries or filing claims through threats or repercussions like loss of your job.
You are also legally protected from harassment, intimidation, and retaliation by your employer for exercising your right to file a workplace injury claim and utilize the workers’ compensation system.
Any violations should be immediately reported to your state’s workers’ compensation board.
Exploring Third-Party Liability
Sometimes a workplace injury is directly caused by the negligence or fault of a third party unrelated to your employer, such as a manufacturer of defective equipment or a vendor providing unsafe contracted services.
In these situations, you may have the option to file a personal injury lawsuit against that negligent third party seeking compensation for your damages above and beyond the benefits your employer provides through workers’ compensation.
Those third-party lawsuits are entirely separate legal avenues from workers’ compensation claims filed against your employer’s insurance. If you believe a third party bears responsibility for your work injury, it is advisable to consult a personal injury attorney to fully review your legal options.
Navigating the Legal Landscape
After suffering a workplace injury, you may be entitled to compensation through both workers’ compensation benefits paid by your employer’s insurer and personal injury legal action against a negligent third party. The laws regarding workplace injuries can become complex very quickly.
It is essential to seek experienced legal guidance early on to help you make fully informed decisions, actively protect your rights at every turn, determine the best legal avenues to pursue just compensation and maximize your overall recovery. An experienced attorney can help you chart the optimal path forward.
Frequently Asked Questions
What if my employer encourages me to use my health insurance instead of filing a workers’ compensation claim?
You have the right to decline this request and pursue a comp claim. Your personal health insurance may not provide the same protections.
Can I sue a third party like a manufacturer for my work-related injury?
If a negligent third party contributed to your injury, you may be able to file a personal injury lawsuit against them even if you collect workers’ comp from your employer.
What benefits can I expect from workers’ comp vs. a personal injury suit?
Workers’ comp provides coverage for medical expenses and lost wages but limits compensation. A personal injury suit allows you to claim non-economic damages like pain/suffering.
Suffering an on-the-job injury can be difficult, but understanding your rights, taking appropriate actions promptly, and exploring all legal remedies available can help you on the road to recovery.
Protect yourself by safeguarding against employer coercion and seek legal counsel to make informed choices. With the right support and knowledge, you can obtain fair compensation and justice.