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Injured at work? Here’s what to do when you're hurt on the job

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Regardless of what your occupation is or where you work, the possibility exists that you’ll get injured on the job. Each year, millions of workers in all types of professions get injured at work, with many experiencing life-altering and life-threatening conditions due to factors that are often beyond their control.

According to the National Safety Council, workplace injuries are alarmingly common. They’ve released a very telling statistic: every seven seconds, a worker is injured on the job. This equates to:

  • 540 work injuries per hour
  • 12,900 work injuries per day
  • 90,400 work injuries per week
  • 7 million work injuries per year

And according to the Council, these injuries result in 99 million days of lost productivity on an annual basis.

In this article, we’ll look at ways you can be proactive to get ahead of the curve before you get injured. We’re also going to explore the most effective ways to deal with the potential red tape you’ll encounter when you file for workers’ compensation.

Planning ahead for an injury at work

Famous author and speaker Dale Carnegie once said:

“An hour of planning can save you 10 hours of doing.”

Planning how to deal with the aftermath of getting injured at work is worth the time. If you’ve ever experienced the red tape of dealing with a governmental agency, like the DMV, you’ll feel right at home dealing with a workers comp claim.

Here are three steps you can take to plan ahead in case you are one of the unfortunate ones who get injured at work:

1. Understand workers' comp

After you get injured isn’t the time to learn about workers’ comp. You’ll probably have enough to deal with tending to your injury and filling out paperwork.

A valuable resource is, as are state government department of insurance websites. To provide you with a primer on workers’ comp, here are a few of the most commonly asked questions:

What is workers’ compensation? Workers’ compensation insurance protects businesses and their employees from financial loss when an employee is hurt on the job or gets sick from a work-related cause.

What does workers’ compensation cover? That’s going to depend on the insurance company, but it usually covers medical expenses, lost wages, ongoing care costs, as well as funeral expenses if an employee dies as the result of a work-related accident or illness.

What isn’t covered by workers’ compensation? This is going to vary from state to state and is typically determined by state laws. A few examples of what most workers’ compensation plans don’t cover are:

  • Injuries received in a fight that the employee started
  • Injuries an employee sustains due to being intoxicated at work
  • Injuries an employee gets that are caused intentionally
  • Emotional injuries not accompanied by a physical workplace trauma

Who pays for workers’ compensation? Employers pay for workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees. Most states require businesses to carry it, with the exception of Texas and Nevada.

Learn More: Workers' Compensation Insurance

2. Get comprehensive health and disability insurance

You may be wondering why you need health and disability insurance if workers’ compensation insurance covers medical expenses and lost wages.

You need health insurance to cover you for non-work-related injuries. According to the National Safety Council, 53.6% of all injury-involved accidents occur at home. And if you have children that play sports or climb trees, health insurance will provide you relief for what can be some costly emergency room visits.

You also need health insurance for illnesses not covered by workers’ comp. A low percentage of all major surgeries can be attributed to illness at work compared to those that aren’t.

Disability insurance is also critical to have. If you get injured at work, there’s no guarantee that the company providing your workers’ comp insurance will pay your claim. There are many lawsuits filed each year by employees injured at work that don’t believe they received adequate compensation for their injury.

A personal disability insurance policy will cover you from accidents suffered at work or at home, as well as not being able to work because of an extended illness.

Get a free, personalized disability insurance quote in seconds.

3. Build an emergency fund

Good planning dictates that you have an emergency fund to pay for your living expenses for 3-6 months. While you’re waiting for your claim to be processed, which can take weeks, you’re going to need money to pay the mortgage or rent, buy groceries, make car payments, pay for childcare expenses, etc.

If you have a serious injury at work and your spouse has to take time off from their job, your emergency fund can also make up for their lost wages. You can’t go wrong with having an emergency fund.

Learn More: How Much Emergency Fund Should I Have?

What to do when injured at work

Now that you’ve planned ahead, you’re much better prepared to deal with what lies ahead if you get injured at work and need to file a claim. It’s important to remember that if you’re ever injured on the job, tell your employer immediately, in writing if at all possible.

Filing for workers’ compensation benefits

Before ever filing a claim, you'll need to gather together a lot of information. The information you’ll need can vary from state to state. Some general information an employer and employee typically need to include when filing a claim includes:

  • Company information (account number and location, policy number)
  • Injured employee information (name, date of birth, address, phone number, Social Security number, age, gender, etc.)
  • Details of the incident (date of the incident, type of injury, exact body part injured, the cause of injury, estimated number of days the employee will lose, anticipated return date, any witnesses, etc.)

Once the necessary information is collected, you should file the claim with the insurance company as soon as possible. This process can differ depending on the state the business you work for operates in. States may impose a window of time for business owners to report the matter to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier. New York, for example, requires reports to be filed within 30 days.

Filing a disability insurance claim

Like a workers’ compensation claim, some disability insurance providers will have a limited number of days for you to file a claim, which is information you’ll find in your policy.

When you file your claim, you’ll need to submit a “claim packet.” There are several forms in the claim packet that you’ll need to complete, which give details about your disability and its severity.

A typical claim packet will ask you for the following:

  • Claimant statement – information about you: name, address, place of employment, other sources of income, etc.
  • Employer statement – the employer describes your employment, including your income, and how your disability affects your ability to perform the duties required for your job
  • Attending physician’s statement must be filled out by the doctor treating you for the disability, which may or may not be your primary care provider or family doctor. The doctor will provide their diagnosis, information about the treatment you’ve been receiving, and their prognosis.

There is a lot of paperwork you’ll be putting together, but it will be worth your effort when the payments from the insurance company start to hit your bank account.

Covering your medical bills

This area can be a bit sticky. If you need immediate treatment for your injury, you’ll need to present your health insurance ID card to the physician and/or hospital since your workers’ comp claim won’t have been filed yet. If or when your claim is approved, you and your health insurance company will have to get reimbursed by the workers’ comp insurance company.

While the claim is being processed, you may need to pay any deductibles and co-insurance that are part of your health insurance. If needed, your emergency fund is the perfect place to find these funds.

Final thoughts

By planning ahead, filing your claim and working with your insurance company to secure payment will not be as tricky a task compared to having no knowledge of how workers’ comp works. Print and put this article with your important insurance documents. Hopefully, you won’t ever need it, but it’s good planning to have it.

The information and content provided herein is for educational purposes only, and should not be considered legal, tax, investment, or financial advice, recommendation, or endorsement. Breeze does not guarantee the accuracy, completeness, reliability or usefulness of any testimonials, opinions, advice, product or service offers, or other information provided here by third parties. Individuals are encouraged to seek advice from their own tax or legal counsel.

— Published May 26, 2021
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