10 things you should do right away if you are hurt at work
Work place accidents and occupational diseases are far too common in New York State and our current system tends to favor the insurance companies. Be proactive and take the following steps to ensure you are receiving the proper indemnity and medical benefits. Of course, your medical health takes priority but after a trip to the emergency room, take the following steps to protect your claim.
1) GIVE NOTICE! - The law gives you thirty (30) days to tell your employer about a work place accident. You should make a written report, write down who you told, date it, and keep a copy for yourself.
2) FILE A "C-3" - This is an initial claim form and this should be filed with the NYS Worker's Compensation Board as soon as possible. Keep your answers short and don't add any additional information that can be used against you.
3) FIND A DOCTOR FAMILIAR WITH THIS SYSTEM - Unfortunately, the insurance companies have done everything in their power to dissuade good doctors from accepting Worker's Compensation insurance. There are still good orthopedists, neurologists, and other physicians who are both qualified and able to navigate this system.
4) GET MEDICAL REPORTS - If you are missing time due to injury or surgery, you have to get medical documentation of a work place disability in order to qualify for weekly benefits. You should work with a doctor who understands the complexities of the this system and who can timely provide disability reports.
5) COLLECT YOUR WAGE INFORMATION - Since awards are based on your average weekly wage, start collecting your pay stubs, W2's and 1040's from the 52 weeks before your injury. This will help to maximize the weekly benefits if you are out of work.
6) COLLECT PRIOR ACCIDENT INFORMATION - The insurance companies constantly accuse innocent injured workers of not reporting prior accidents and fraud. Cases can get derailed quickly after a fraud accusation. To prevent this, find information on any and all work place and non-work place accidents and report them on your initial claim. Gather information on prior medical treatment or lawsuits you may had.
7) KEEP IN CONTACT WITH YOUR EMPLOYER - Most injured workers want to get back on their feet as soon as possible. Keep your HR representative informed of any changes and note your desire to get back to work. Inform them that you are willing to go back light duty and work with your doctor and HR rep to create a plan to return within your restrictions.
8) MAKE A TREATMENT PLAN WITH THE DOCTOR - The Medical Treatment Guidelines are complicated and many injured workers need treatment in excess of the amount automatically granted. Your doctor may need to work with an attorney to get additional treatment or surgery authorized by the court.
9) FILE A THIRD PARTY CASE - If someone other than the employer or an agent of the employer caused your injury, and if you decide to start a third party action, you MUST pursue that claim. The insurance company may have a lien on this case and the injured worker has an obligation to shift liability to the proper entity. For example, if you are hit while driving for work, you must bring suit against the other driver's insurance or else your claim could be negatively impacted. The insurance company must CONSENT to any settlement you receive and resolve any outstanding liens.
10) CONTACT AN ATTORNEY - An attorney can review a case and advise whether or not you are be properly paid or receiving the appropriate care. This system is both highly technical and overly bureaucratic. The insurance companies are more than happy to allow people to represent themselves in court where they may waive their rights to medical treatment and/or indemnity benefits. Don't let them take advantage!