If you’re injured on the job, it’s important to know your rights as well as what steps to take. While you may have heard that the only financial restitution you can receive for work-related injuries is through workers’ compensation benefits, the fact is that you can sue for damages in certain situations.
The key is to take action as quickly as possible and provide the right information: most workers’ compensation claims are denied or delayed because the injured worker failed to submit their claim on time or include the documents needed to verify their claim. To ensure that your rights are fully protected if you are injured at work, take the following actions:
1. Get Immediate Medical Attention
If you have been injured at work, seek medical attention immediately. Call 911 (ask a coworker to do it if you are unable) if it’s an emergency; otherwise, you will be asked to see a healthcare provider of your employer’s choice. Get a medical examination even if you don’t think you’ve been hurt- some work-related injuries can take hours and even days to develop visible symptoms.
In New York, providers who treat non-emergency workplace accidents are authorized by the Workers’ Compensation Board. If your employer participates in an Alternate Dispute Resolution program or a Preferred Provider Organization, you may have to obtain medical treatment from a provider specific to your employer’s program. If your employer does participate in a PPO or ADR program, you should have received all the relevant information in writing.
Your medical treatment should be covered by your employer or by your employer’s insurance company unless one of the parties disputes your claim.
2. Document Your Workplace Injury with a Medical Provider
As you fill out required paperwork at a doctor’s office or hospital, you should check the box indicating that you were hurt on the job. Doing so will result in the medical bills being sent to your employer or to the workers’ compensation insurance company and not to you. If you do select your own doctor to treat you, ensure that she is certified to handle workers’ compensation claims.
Stress to the medical provider that your records need to include significant detail about your injury, such as the history and circumstances under which you were injured. Documentation should be included for any body part affected by the injury, since workers’ compensation benefits will not provide treatment for body parts that are not mentioned in the injury report.
A preliminary medical report ( Form C-4) should be written by the treating doctor within 48 hours after the accident and should be mailed to the appropriate district office. The doctor should also send copies of the report to you and your employer.
3. Alert Your Employer
Both your immediate supervisor and the human resources department of your employer should be notified as soon as possible about your workplace injury. If you do not inform your employer in writing within 30 days of the accident that caused your injury, you could lose out on benefits under the workers’ compensation system.
If you are diagnosed with a disease related to your work, you must adhere to certain deadlines related to your workers’ compensation claim. You must notify your employer within two years after you became disabled or within two years of the time that you knew the injury was work-related.
Once a report is made, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance carrier should provide you with a written statement of your rights under the law within 14 days after receiving the information.
4. File Your Claim with the New York State Board of Workers’ Compensation.
Once you have notified your employer, you will need to file a claim with the New York State Board of Workers’ Compensation, by filling out Form (C-3) and mail it to the appropriate District Office.
Unless your claim is disputed, either your employer or your employer’s insurer pays for medical care related to an on-the-job injury or illness. At a medical provider’s office, you may be asked to sign a form indicating that you will be responsible for the medical bills if your workers’ compensation claim is denied or if you don’t pursue a claim.
In addition, you’ll need to complete the appropriate workers’ compensation paperwork and mail it to your nearest Workers’ Compensation Board office. Your attorney can assist you with ensuring that you file the right paperwork at the right time for your claim to be covered.
If all goes well, your insurer should begin paying benefits within 18 days after receiving your report of a work-related injury. When you are receiving benefits, your doctor will issue a progress report to the Workers’ Compensation Board once every 45 days.
However, the claim is being disputed, the insurer must inform you and the New York State Board of Workers’ Compensation of the reason. If you haven’t already, you definitely want to speak to an attorney at a workers’ comp law firm.
5. Contact a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Workers’ compensation cases include varying levels of complexity and can involve multiple points of law. For instance, workers’ compensation insurance is considered “no-fault” insurance, meaning that your on-the-job injuries are covered even if you are at fault. However, your employer or the workers’ compensation insurer may attempt to deny your claim by arguing that you were reckless or intentionally inflicted injuries upon yourself.
Are All New York Employees Covered by Workers’ Comp?
Most businesses in New York State must carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage for all employees, even if they only have one person on staff. This rule includes seasonal workers, part-time employees, family members who work for the company, and domestic workers who work at least 40 hours a week.
There are some workers and jobs excluded from workers’ compensation coverage in New York. They include but may not be limited to business owners, federal employees, longshoremen, independent contractors, railroad employees, and volunteers. If in doubt about your coverage, speak to your supervisor.
What Losses Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?
In New York, workers’ comp benefits generally cover:
- Medical expenses for injured or sick workers
- Ongoing medical treatment, such as physio, chiropractic care, and surgery
- Injuries caused by repetitive stress, such as carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis
- Loss of wages if you miss work due to a job-related injury or illness
- Disability benefits if a work-related injury or illness causes a temporary or permanent disability
- Death benefits like funeral costs
When you file a claim, you should receive complete information about what your benefits cover. If you have questions, ask your employer or the insurer.
Is Workers’ Compensation My Only Financial Recovery Option in New York?
In certain circumstances, you may be entitled to financial restitution in addition to workers’ compensation coverage. If you were injured due to a defective product, for example, you may have a basis for a product liability lawsuit against the manufacturer. Likewise, an injury from a toxic substance could lead to a case against the maker of the substance.
If your employer or a third party engaged in egregious conduct that resulted in your injury, you could consider filing a personal injury action. Workers’ compensation does not cover punitive damages, to which you may be entitled if your employer allowed dangerous conditions to exist at a workplace. In addition, you may be awarded damages for pain and suffering caused by your work-related disability, so explore your options with a personal injury attorney.
Injured at Work? Call a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Now!
If you’re hurt at work, it’s critical to know your rights, but workers’ compensation law can be difficult to navigate alone and some aspects of the claims process are complicated. To speak with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney about getting legal representation for your case, contact the offices of Paul Giannetti, Attorney at Law, at 518-243-8011.