Did you know that you can file a workers’ compensation case for an injury that occurred slowly over a long period of time? If you do repetitive work on an assembly line, in a factory, or do heavy construction or oil field work, you may have back, neck, hands, knees or arm problems that need treatment and compensation.
Regardless of your immigration status, a workers’ compensation attorney can fight to get your injuries recognized and benefits paid by your employer or its Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier. Here are the steps you should take.
1- Notify Your Employer
Report your injury to your supervisor, the Safety representative in Human Resources, or whoever is in charge of filling out accident reports at your company. If it was a single event injury like a fall that caused your injury, you will have to give a specific date, time, location of where it happened, and how it happened.
If you have a cumulative trauma injury where the injury happened slowly over a period of time and progressively got worse due to the nature of your work, try to note when you began to have problems and became aware that the problem was related to your work duties.
Some people seek treatment on their own for cumulative trauma cases, not realizing the employer is responsible, and the doctors are the ones who make them aware that the injuries may be related to the job activities.
Cumulative trauma injuries are more difficult to prove, but the longer you work for a company and the more repetitive or labor intensive the job, the better chance you have at succeeding, especially if your doctor has already documented that (s)he believes that your injuries may be due to your work activities.
2- Fill Out an Injury Report & Ask Your Employer to Provide Medical Treatment
Make sure your employer files an injury report with their workers’ compensation insurance carrier so they can refer you to a medical provider for treatment.
When talking to medical providers, be consistent with your description of the injury and the body parts you claim injured. Be sure you list all the body parts you believe are injured due to your work. Workers’ Compensation law is very specific when it comes to body parts.
Anything below your elbow is considered a hand. From the elbow up to the shoulder is an arm. The shoulder is a separate body part from the arm. The same goes for lower extremities. Anything below the knee is considered part of the foot.
From the knee up to the hip is part of the leg. The hip is a separate body part from the leg. If you have a back injury, you will need to specify if you injured your upper back, lower back, or both.
If you had a head injury, do you also feel pain in your neck, or do you now have blurry vision due to your head injury? Before you sign the incident/injury report, make sure all the body parts you are having problems with due to your work injury are listed on the report.
Do not sign it if you don’t understand what the employer wrote down on your behalf or if it is not accurate.
Have an interpreter help communicate if needed and note the interpreter’s name and contact information in case(s) he needs to be called as a witness later.
3- Consult with a Workers’ Compensation Attorney to File Your Claim
Even if the employer is providing you with medical treatment and you are receiving a weekly check while you are off work and actively treating for your injuries, you need the help of an experienced Workers’ Compensation attorney to ensure that your rights are protected and that you are receiving the maximum benefits allowed under the law.
Workers’ Compensation law is a highly specialized area of practice where the law is constantly changing. You need to find an attorney who goes to court almost every day, keeps up with all the changes, and is intimately knowledgeable with how the system works to ensure you have the best outcome.
A good attorney will make sure the insurance company sends you to qualified doctors to treat your specific injuries, ensure that your weekly checks are paid at the correct rate, and fight to get all doctors’ treatment recommendations authorized and paid for by the insurance before we negotiate to get top dollar for your case.
The settlement we recover for you is often much more than the fee we charge for our services, so a good attorney will not only provide you with peace of mind, but also net you more than you would receive on your own.
You wouldn’t hire a Workers’ Compensation attorney to represent you in a criminal case, so don’t allow an inexperienced attorney who knows little to nothing about Workers’ Compensation to represent you in a work injury that is often devastating and life changing.
4- Keep Your Attorney Informed
Keep your attorney informed of your medical treatment, work status, and if you start developing consequential injuries. All treatment records are requested to evaluate the claim, but it may take some time for the attorney to receive them.
Always let your attorney know if you have been releases from treatment or release to go back to work. Your attorney can request a second opinion if you are still having problems after your release. Do not quit your job or decline surgery before you consult with your attorney, who can advise you of the pros and cons.
If you suffer an injury to an upper or lower extremity and you start to feel pain on the other side due to overcompensating for the side that was initially injured, you may have suffered a consequential injury due to overuse, which is also compensable under Workers’ Compensation law. It is very important to mention the change in condition to your attorney and your treating doctor as soon as you notice it.
Michael Brooks-Jimenez, P.C. has recovered more than $50 million for our clients. We are a law firm that provides legal representation in criminal, immigration, workers’ compensation, and personal injury cases.
If you’re concerned about your immigration or citizenship status, it shouldn’t hold you back from filing a workers’ compensation claim. Schedule a free consultation with one of our attorneys to talk about your case as soon as possible.