So you've been injured on the job — yikes! We're sorry to hear. But you've come to the right place to figure out what to do next.
The chances are that, if you've been injured in the workplace, the company for which you work has some liability. This means that you'll need to understand your legal rights (and those of the company) on top of your healthcare options if you need medical help.
If you've been seriously injured, after all, you might have found yourself on a trip to the hospital or emergency room — and, if you now need continued care, you'll have to figure out what care options are available (and affordable) to you.
Here's everything you need to know about getting injured on the job, as well as what steps to take next. And remember to hang in there; you aren't alone in this process!
1. Know your rights.
Above all else, know your rights! workers' compensation laws exist for a reason. Every state has a workers' compensation law that's designed to pay employee expenses for those who are injured while performing job-related duties.
Make sure you research your state's workers' compensation law to learn about how you might be able to recover lost wages, cover medical expenses and the costs associated with rehabilitation and training, receive disability payments and more.
If you need help understanding your rights, it's best to contact an attorney in your area who can give you legal advice and inform you of your rights in your specific situation.
2. Report your injury to the company.
The first thing you want to do after an injury occurs on the job is let your employer know that you've been injured on the job. After all, the only way you'll have a shot at employers' and workers' compensation insurance helping to foot the medical bills is if your employer is aware of your injury — and some insurance companies will deny claims if your injury is not promptly reported.
Beyond insurance reasons, however, you also want the company to be acutely aware of what happened so as to prevent further injuries to yourself and more injuries to others. The sooner the company is aware of the risk or any issues at hand, the quicker the company can work to mitigate the risk or resolve any problems. Your and your coworkers' safety is important, and your company should be made immediately aware of anything that could compromise your safety.
3. Find adequate healthcare (and let the provider know that your injury occurred in the workplace).
Find a healthcare provider to get you the help you need. If you've been seriously injured, you might have already been taken to the hospital or an emergency room, and you might need further care. If your injury was not emergency room-material or minor but is still affecting you, however, you will want to still seek care from a doctor.
Find doctors in your area who are in your insurance network. You may have health insurance provided by your company or you may have bought your own health insurance outside of your company. Either way, look for a healthcare provider that takes your insurance so that you won't have to pay the whole bill.
It's also important to immediately let this healthcare provider know that your injury happened on the job. Make sure that your healthcare provider makes a written note of the fact that your injury happened on the job, as well, since, in many cases, employers' and workers' compensation insurance companies will deny claims if the first medical note doesn't specify that your injury was work-related.
The point is — the more insurance companies can help you out, the better! So don't be afraid to ask questions and request written notices. You have to be your own advocate.
4. Provide your employer a follow-up written notice of your workplace injury.
You will also want to provide your employer with another written notice of your injury that happened while on the job. In fact, some states will require that written notice of your injury be provided on a specific form that includes the date of your injury and a short description of what happened. It's important that you provide this form as soon as possible — and you should also keep a copy of it for your own records.
Research the correct form for your state. Your employer should have copies of this form available for you to fill out. If they don't, you can likely download one on your state's government site or contact an attorney to help you.
5. Keep detailed notes on the aftermath of your injury should you need to take legal action.
Once you've notified your employer of your injury and you've started seeking medical help, make sure to keep detailed notes of what's been going on. You'll want to keep track of how many days you miss from work because of your injury. You'll want to report any pain you have, where you have pain, to what extent you have pain, and how that pain may change or increase over time. You'll want to report any money you spend on taking care of yourself since the injury — travel costs to and from the doctor, out-of-pocket costs for medicines, etc.
These notes are important because, after a certain number of days out of work, workers' compensation laws may mean that you get reimbursed for these costs and paid wage replacements for missed days of work. Also, if you need to take legal action against your company for not handling your workplace injury, you'll have a detailed diary of everything that's happened over time to help you make your case (you should also keep notes of everything your employer does and doesn't do to assist/handle the situation!).
AnnaMarie Houlis is a feminist, a freelance journalist and an adventure aficionado with an affinity for impulsive solo travel. She spends her days writing about women’s empowerment from around the world. You can follow her work on her blog, HerReport.org, and follow her journeys on Instagram @her_report, Twitter @herreport and Facebook.