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Injured at Work? 5 Tips to Protect Yourself and Your Finances

doctor handshake with a patient at doctors bright modern office in hospitalThe National Safety Council reports that, on average, someone is injured every 7 seconds at work, totaling more than 4.5 million employees who suffer from the effects of a workplace accident or incident every single year. Even working environments that are deemed to be lower risk, such as offices, can house potentially dangerous situations that could result in injury.  And while taking a proactive approach to health and safety is always best, it’s vital that employees are aware of what happens after an event and understand the best ways to recover, not only physically and mentally, but also financially. A workplace injury can result in aches, pains, and physical and emotional distress, but many people overlook one of the biggest impacts of all: the financial strain of mounting medical bills coupled with the inability to work.

Fortunately, workers compensation can help to get you back on track, but the truth is that many claims for financial assistance are declined. The National Academy of Social Insurance states that “there is evidence that suggests that many injured workers are not receiving the cash benefits and/or medical care they need”. As an employee, being injured at work is bad enough. In this article we share 5 handy tips so that you don’t get robbed when you’re already feeling down.


What To Do After Getting Injured At Work

1. Consult with HR

The role of HR in workplace safety is often overlooked, but the truth is that your company’s HR manager should be one of the first people you talk to following an accident at work. Speed is key to getting a workers compensation claim approved, and the faster the compensation comes in, the less you have to worry about medical bills and lost earnings.

If you are happy to do so, you may wish to sign a medical release when you first chat with HR to help minimize delays in getting medical records through. Another reason to involve HR early on in the process is to ensure that accurate and detailed notes are generated, with both the injured party (yourself) and the business agreeing to a timeline of events. This can help to create a clear picture of what happened, and increase the chances of approval.

While exact details will, of course, be determined by the nature of the injury, some good aspects to note include how the injury occurred, who was involved, who witnessed the accidents, and any discussions that took place regarding the event. Documenting these aspects of the injury as soon as possible after an accident ensures that the information is accurate and hasn’t been tainted by passing time and changing memories.


2. File a Workers Compensation Form

When an accident or injury occurs, your own physical and mental health should be a priority. However, it is important to try to find time during your recovery to properly file the relevant workers compensation form that is issued by your local government. Without filing the necessary documentation, you will be unable to make a claim for financial support.

For minor injuries, there is a time limit on how long after the injury you can claim; these periods typically range from one to three years (although some areas may allow up to six years). Filing a claim after the window has closed could mean your claim is denied, even though it would have been approved if it had been filed in a timely manner.


3. See a Doctor

If an accident or injury has left you unable to return to work, you may be concerned about how a loss of earnings could affect your home life. In this instance, it is important to see your doctor, who will be able to perform a disability assessment. If your doctor diagnoses you with temporary total disability (TTD), partial permanent disability (PPD), or permanent total disability (PTD), you may be eligible for disability payments which can help to cover some of your earnings while you are recovering.

Even if you are not considering a disability assessment, seeing your doctor is still recommended following an accident or injury. While you may feel OK, it’s important to get a check-up to ensure that you haven’t suffered a serious injury. Your doctor can also advise you on when you can return to work so that you’re not heading back before you have properly recovered from a sustained injury.


4. Consider a Lawsuit

While this is certainly an extreme tip, it’s important for workers to understand their rights, particularly their right to compensation if a workplace accident was the cause of third party negligence. In cases where workers compensation is not expected to cover financial losses, a lawsuit could help to provide more funds to cover medical bills and loss of earnings.

It is worth speaking directly to an experienced legal firm in this instance to determine whether the actions of a third party vendor, contractor or manufacturer could have contributed to the accident and whether a lawsuit would be the most suitable path moving forward, given the individual circumstances of the event in question.


5. Create a Return-to-Work Plan

While workers compensation and possible lawsuits are effective ways of covering financial losses following injury, they are ultimately short term fixes. One of the best things that you can do during your recovery is to communicate closely with your firm’s HR team to formulate a return-to-work plan for a longer term solution to your financial concerns.

With a strong strategic plan in place, you may find that you are able to get back to work sooner than anticipated. Remember that you may not be able to immediately return to your everyday role if your injury prevents it. It is important for yourself, your HR team and your doctor to work together to determine what tasks you should and should not be carrying out in the workplace.

If it is found that many of your usual tasks would be outside of the scope of your post-injury abilities, HR teams should be working to focus on the skills and talents that you have, and find new ways to derive value from your capabilities through the identification of new tasks that can help the organization achieve its goals.


Putting Your Needs First

Putting yourself first after experiencing an injury at work is essential, but many don’t realize just what it means to care for their own needs. While meeting your physical and emotional needs is important, so is taking the appropriate measures to ensure that an accident doesn’t create additional challenges to what you’re already dealing with.

These 5 handy tips help to ensure that you’re prioritizing your financial needs as well as your physical needs and taking care of yourself when you really need it most.

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About the Author: Scott Blumenshine's expertise is based on years of experience representing people in personal injury and underinsured and uninsured motorist claims, arguing the facts and law in court, writing on the subject, and presenting materials at continuing education seminars. Scott has been practicing law in Chicago for over 30 years and is currently a managing partner at the Blumenshine Law Group.

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