In the state of New York, employers reported more than 125,000 workplace illnesses and injuries in 2021. Within that number are 81,600 people who had a more severe injury or illness that led to missed work, job transfers or restricted job duties. This leads to a rate of six cases per 100 full-time employees, which is higher than the national rate of 4.5 per 100 full-time employees.
Workers who face illnesses and injuries at the workplace are often eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim. Employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover these costs and incidents. Those who do not can face fines, criminal prosecution, personal liability or a lawsuit from the employee if they are unable to obtain the necessary compensation for their injury.
What Should you Do After a Workplace Injury?
Even if your employer does have workers’ compensation insurance, the company may not pay what you feel you deserve or need for your injury. This is where a workers’ compensation lawyer can be a valuable part of your efforts to recover lost wages, medical expenses and pain and suffering.
After a workplace injury, documentation is extremely important.
Step 1: Immediate Report the Injury
Many workers feel as if they should “push through” a work injury or just give it time to get better, but the truth is you should report it to your supervisor right away. Even a small injury can turn into something bigger if not dealt with immediately. No matter how small the injury, you should report it to the proper people right away, so there is documentation of the incident and you can prove that a more serious condition started at work.
Step 2: Take Notes of Everything
You will have to fill out plenty of forms and documents, but it is a good idea to take notes immediately after the accident if possible. Snap a couple of pictures on your phone of where the accident happened, and keep track of any other employees who saw you get injured.
Keep notes of everyone you talked to about your work injury and their response. If you must see a doctor your employer picked, keep track of any doctor visits and the conversations you have during them.
Step 3: Take Your Time Getting Medical Attention
Many people are afraid to file a workers’ compensation claim because they fear they may receive retaliation against them at work or they may miss out on income. Ignoring your injury can exacerbate it and make it much worse down the road. You have a right to see your own doctor if your employer cannot provide medical help. If there is an insurance delay that stops you from getting into a doctor, speak to your attorney about how to get your expenses covered, but never ignore an injury, no matter how small it may seem in the beginning.
Step 4: Speak to a Qualified Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation is just another form of insurance, and insurance companies are not well known for their speed. While you are waiting for them to process your claim or dealing with a combative insurance company, a personal injury attorney can help you avoid common problems that happen with insurance companies after injuries, like the following:
- Push you to accept a fast, small settlement
- Misrepresentation of witness accounts of your accident
- Disputing necessary medical treatments
- Requesting you sign authorization documents you do not understand
Once you hire a workers’ compensation lawyer, they handle all the negotiation and communication with the insurance company. This allows you to focus on treatment, recovery and rehabilitation without the additional stress of a complex legal process you may not understand.
What Benefits Are You Entitled To?
In New York, workers have access to certain benefits through workers’ compensation insurance. They include the following:
- Health care: includes dental, medical, optometry, surgical, assistive devices and medically necessary drugs
- Lost wages: injuries that take you away from work for more than seven days qualify you for lost wages benefits
- Survivor benefits: if someone dies on the job, survivors have access to funeral or memorial expenses and weekly cash benefits
Disability benefits are also part of workers’ compensation. There are four types of disability classifications that may affect your claim.
- Temporary total disability means you are unable to work and earn wages for a short period of time.
- Temporary partial disability means you have lost some work, and the amount is calculated based on a percentage of your pay and your disability level.
- Permanent total disability means you completely lost the ability to make money from your injury.
- Permanent partial disability means you permanently lost part of your capacity to earn money.
It can be difficult to prove different types of disability, and an attorney can help you maximize your benefits and fight for your best interests.
Do You Need to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
To file a successful claim, you need to collect and present evidence to prove your injury happened on the job. There are often complications or setbacks, which can make it hard for you to obtain the medical attention you need or obtain the regular salary you need to pay your bills. If you have problems with your claim, it is a good idea to seek legal advice. Some situations where an attorney would be helpful include:
- When you face retaliation from anyone on the job, including your employer. This could be demotion, termination or reduction of your hours.
- Your employer or their insurance company denied your claim. You do not need to accept a denial, but some employees do not know they can appeal with the help of an attorney.
- If your payments do not come on time, you may benefit from speaking to an attorney because there is a required payment schedule, and your employer must meet it.
- If you receive Social Security disability benefits or plan to apply soon, a workers’ compensation claim can affect the amount you qualify for.
- Your injury caused a permanent disability, and the insurance company is fighting to pay out the large sum you deserve because you lost your ability to work.
There are other reasons you may want to hire legal counsel when filing a workers’ compensation claim. These cases are often complicated and complex, and it is hard to determine what is a fair settlement and when you should fight for more. A qualified attorney can advise you on the important steps to take while also organizing and documenting the evidence you need for your case.
A workers’ compensation lawyer may negotiate more money for you from your employer or the insurance company. Many injured workers settle with the first offer they get because they are unaware they may have some negotiating power. This is where a workers’ compensation attorney with experience and extensive knowledge about New York law can help injured workers.
When Should You Call?
After you get hurt, the first thing you should do is receive medical attention. Once you are stable and calm, schedule a meeting with a personal injury attorney to discuss your case. At Cellino Law, we are happy to analyze your case with you and answer any questions you have about workers’ compensation laws. Contact us today if you or someone you love obtained an injury at work.