Have you or someone you love been hurt at work?
If so, there are probably a thousand questions running through your mind...
- Who will pay your medical bills?
- How will you pay your bills if you are out of work?
- Can you return to work?
- Can you perform the same job you did before?
- If not, will you be fired?
These are just a few of the questions that an injured employee may be wondering. And these thoughts are normal to have! Workers' compensation can be an incredibly confusing, complicated process.
How to Start the Workers' Comp Claims Process
If you have experienced any kind of accident at work, you must report it to your employer within 30 days of the accident and have them file a First Report of Injury form immediately.
No matter how big or small the injury was, notifying your employer and filling out that form is the best first step towards protecting yourself in a workers' comp claim.
If nothing comes of the accident--great!
But if a small injury does not heal properly or begins to worsen in some way, having the proof that the accident happened on company time and that you told your employer will be an enormous factor in your workers' comp claim.
Worker’s compensation cases have little to do with whose fault the accident was. If you were injured on the job, you are entitled to payment of medical bills and lost wages.
What Are My Workers' Comp Benefits?
The potential benefits that can be received from workers’ comp are the payment of medical bills from the accident and lost wages if the injury puts you out of work. It may even pay for rehabilitation and training for a new job. Note that workers’ comp does not have a monetary limit, however a claims adjustor can micromanage your care and wage loss, possibly decreasing the benefits you recieve.
3 Mistakes that Can Ruin Your Workers' Comp Claim
1) Signing a medical release
It is usually never a good idea to sign a medical release unless you fully understand what you are signing. Doing so can harm your case. Be very careful as some insurance companies may try to trick you into signing a release.
2) Giving recorded statements
You are not required to give an insurance company a recorded statement. Remember, the other side's insurance company is going to try to save them as much money as possible. They may try to trick you to give a statement that could be used against you later.
3) Not being up front about prior accidents or injuries
It is incredibly important to be honest about your injuries in a workers' comp claim. For instance, if you have a shoulder injury, and have injured your shoulder in the past--mention it! If your current injury is somehow related to the injury-in-question and you fail to mention your past injury, they may accuse you of fraud.
What Will Workers' Comp Pay?
If you can prove that you were injured while “on the clock” then medical bills will be paid. The first step towards proving this is by submitting a First Report of Injury form. Eyewitnesses and security cameras are other helpful forms of evidence.
The workers’ comp insurance company will pay you 66 and ⅔ of your average weekly wage if you were injured on the job and unable to work.
The amount the workers’ comp carrier has to pay you is dependent upon the wages you received in the 13 weeks before you were injured. It does not matter if you had taken a few weeks off or if you had not worked a full 40 hours for whatever reason.
How to Calculate Wage Loss Benefits
You will need to provide your paycheck to determine your weekly wage. As a general rule, take care that your hours and wages are properly documented. Detrimental issues can arise if you have improper time records or failed to declare all income (such as tips).
In order to calculate your lost wage benefits, the employee or their attorney must…
- Add up the total amount of wages for the 13 weeks (or 91 days) preceding the injury.
- Divide this number by 13, and the result is the average wage for one week.
Your paychecks should be the only evidence you need to prove your wages.
Tips, commissions, and other untaxed income can be added to the equation if the employer is aware that it is part of the employee’s income. It is very important for waiters and other service industry workers to claim tips on tax returns in order to receive the deserved benefits.
If you were injured on the job and have a second job, then your workers’ comp benefits could be calculated based upon both jobs. In order for this to take place, the second job must have also had worker’s comp insurance and the employee needed to have paid taxes on income made there as well.
When Will I Receive Workers' Comp Benefits?
Medical benefits begin immediately after your workers' compensation claim is filed. You will also be paid by the company you work for, and your employer’s insurance company or the state. Also note that your claim does not have to be accepted for the bills to be paid. If you are still in the process of filing a claim, tell your doctor, and then your insurer will be billed.
Unfortunately, workers' comp is notoriously slow in paying weekly wage loss, and it is perfectly legal for them to respond slowly. You can still protect yourself though by getting a loan.
What is My Workers' Comp Case Worth?
There is no single factor used to determine the value of case, however, there are a few common criteria used by experienced attorneys to determine value.
- Your age
- Your level of education
- Your personal injuries
- The likelihood that you will recover from your injuries
- The estimated cost of future medical care and treatment (if your injuries continue)
- How much you earned at your job
- Your overall work history
5 Tips for Injured Workers
In order to properly preserve your workers' comp claim, you should do the following:
1) Report your accident to your supervisor immediately. Demand that an accident report be filled out.
2) Get medical treatment. If possible, get specialized treatment (specialized doctors have years of experience for one area of the body).
3) Contact an experienced Florida workers' comp law firm.
4) Gather contact information of potential witnesses, including names, addresses and telephone numbers.
5) Keep a copy of all the medical reports and bills you receive.
Do You Need an Attorney for Workers' Comp?
Another question many injured workers have is whether or not they need legal representation for their workers' comp claim. Is it really worth the effort to seek an attorney? Workers' comp can be a tedious and complicated process, and having an experienced attorney to help can sometimes mean the difference between a denied or accepted claim.