Each year, more than $6.5 trillion in lost wages are paid out to U.S. employees in workers compensation. Trillions more are spent covering medical expenses and extended care for these injured workers.
If you’ve been injured at work, you’re entitled to compensation to cover your medical care, both short term, and long term. You’re also entitled to a payout for any wages lost while you were recovering from your injuries.
When you are able to return to work, your employer must make changes to allow you to still work, even if you are physically unable to return to your old job. If you can’t return to work at all, you will still receive workers comp to cover the wages you should have been earning.
But all of these benefits are not automatic. In order to be eligible for workers compensation, there are several important things you need to do. More importantly, there are several things you need to avoid.
Keep reading to learn 5 mistakes to avoid if you’ve been injured at work.
1. Not Reporting it Immediately
One big mistake that many employees make after getting hurt on the job is failing to report their injury right away.
When a serious accident takes place in the workplace and involves bad injuries, it’s not likely to go unnoticed by the employer. Any supervisor on duty will be alerted, a protocol will be carried out, and an ambulance and/or firetruck will be called.
In this case, the start of a report on the accident will likely be underway before the injured employee ever leaves the hospital.
But more often, injuries are less obvious. Maybe you pull a muscle using a piece of equipment and don’t notice the pain until the next morning when you wake up. Or you cut yourself at work and a few days later discover that you have developed an infection.
In these cases, you might be tempted to put off filing a report with your employer. You may think that your injury is too minor or think it will get better on its own.
However, if it doesn’t and you wait too long, you could miss your window to report your injury. That window varies depending on the state.
In Ohio, you have up to a year to report your injury. But in Florida, you have just 30 days. Learn more about workers compensation requirements in the Sunshine Stare here.
2. Going Home, Not to a Doctor
If you get hurt while at work and know that it’s serious right away, you need to seek help. Even if you don’t realize the severity of your injuries until a couple of hours or even a few days later, you need to see a doctor as quickly as possible.
Workers compensation is designed to help employees get the medical care they need, as well as money for lost wages, following a workplace injury.
If you choose not to see a doctor or seek medical help following an accident, it will look as though your injuries weren’t severe enough to require care. If they aren’t severe enough to require treatment, they likely aren’t severe enough for you to miss work.
In either case, you won’t be deemed eligible for workers comp.
If you’re unable to go to work or perform your duties because of an injury related to your work, you need to seek medical care as quickly as possible.
3. Visiting Your Regular Doctor
If your injury isn’t serious enough to warrant a trip to the emergency room, your first move might be to call and make an appointment with your regular doctor.
But if you are certain that your injury is work-related, think twice before picking up the phone.
Instead, it’s important to see the doctor chosen by your employer if you want to remain eligible to receive workers comp. Even if you suffer a minor case of the most common workplace injury, a slip, trip, or fall, you need to find out which doctors are approved by your employer and their insurance provider.
You can still see your doctor for a second opinion, though. And if you don’t feel that the first doctor you saw properly diagnosed you, you should see your own doctor for a second opinion.
4. Signing Anything Without a Lawyer
Before you receive workers compensation, you will first have to reach a settlement with your employer and their insurance provider.
This involves signing a lengthy legal document highlighting the compensation you’ll receive and the parameters of your settlement. Once you sign your settlement, there’s no going back or making changes.
That’s why before you sign the bottom line, it’s a good idea to have a lawyer review the document.
They’ll be able to help guide you through understanding the legal settlement. This will allow you to make an informed decision about either accepting the offer or asking for changes first.
When you accept a workers compensation settlement, you’re making a decision that will have a huge effect on the future of your finances. Make sure that you are making the right choice.
5. Refusing Work Offered By Your Employer
If you suffered physical injuries that keep you from returning to your old work duties right away, your employer may offer you an alternative form of work.
If you are physically able to perform the work that your employer is offering, you need to take it.
If you refuse to take the work offered, you could make yourself ineligible for workers compensation. It will indicate that you may be using your injury as a way to avoid work while still getting laid.
Depending upon the conditions of your settlement, refusing work offered by your employer may automatically put an end to your worker’s compensation, as well as compensation you’re receiving for your medical care.
What to do if You’ve Been Injured at Work
If you’ve been injured at work, you are entitled to compensation.
But while workers comp will cover medical care and lost wages, your finances may still take a hit.
You may lose out on bonuses you could have earned. You won’t have the chance to make advancements that could have led to a raise, you can’t earn commissions from big sales.
Even if you receive a sizable settlement, it’s a good idea to learn to budget better until you are able to return to work. Check out these 7 tips to help you get started.