Each day that you are on your job, you run the risk of getting injured. In fact, the National Safety Council estimates that an employee is injured on the job every 7 seconds. All it takes is one slip-and-fall accident or getting hit by a falling object to end up hospitalized or living with a permanent disability. A few weeks or months off from work can place a great financial and emotional hardship on you and your family after losing your steady income. Fortunately, you have a right to pursue compensation and other benefits from your employer.
Workers’ Compensation Offered By Some Employers
Most states require employers with at least three employees to offer workers’ compensation insurance, according to a state-by-state comparison provided by the National Federal of Independent Business. The state of Texas, however, does not require employers to offer workers’ compensation benefits, but there are a few exceptions. And in some instances, contractors may require subcontractors and independent contractors to offer workers’ compensation to their employees. Companies that offer workers’ compensation benefits must provide employees with written information about insurance coverage and where they can obtain more information about their workers’ compensation rights.
What Workers’ Compensation Provides
Generally, there are four types of workers’ compensation benefits available to employees:
If you cannot work because of your injury, workers’ compensation will replace some of your income. Generally, the type of income benefit you receive depends on the type of injury you suffered. For instance, you may receive temporary income for an injury that requires a recovery time of a few months or a lifetime benefit if you suffered a catastrophic injury that resulted in a total and permanent loss of a body part.
Your employers’ commercial insurance company pays for medical expenses associated with treating a work-related injury or illness.
Survivors of employees who die due to a work-related injury or illness may be able to receive death benefits. Typically, a spouse, minor children, and other dependent family members are paid benefits. While there are limits, death benefits generally pay 75 percent of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage.
The survivor or another individual who paid the burial expenses for the deceased employee may be able to get reimbursed for the costs. You can still receive benefits even if your injury did not occur in your workplace. For instance, if you were running a work-related errand and another driver crashed into your vehicle and you were injured, you can apply for workers’ compensation.
Reporting Your Injury
To be eligible for workers’ compensation, you must report your injury to your employer. You have 30 days after the date of your injury to notify your employer. If your injury prevents you from reporting your accident, you may have someone acting on your behalf to contact your employer. There is an exception for workers who develop an occupational disease since illness can develop over time. In these instances, workers have 30 days after the date of learning about the disease to report the condition to their employer.
Gathering Information to Support Your Claim
Just because you were injured on the job does not mean that your employer’s insurance company will approve your workers’ compensation application. It’s common for insurers to find reasons to deny workers’ compensation claims. So, collecting information to prove your injury is important.
You increase the likelihood of getting benefits with information such as:
- Statements from witnesses to your accident
- Your medical records
- A statement from your physician about your injury
- Statements from your or your relatives on the effect of your injury or illness
- Surveillance video of your accident (if available)
- An incident or police report of your accident (if available)
Additionally, any documents showing that your employer has a history of workplace safety violations and has been cited by federal, state or local authorities strengthens your claim.
Filing a Personal Injury Lawsuit
If your employer does not offer workers’ compensation insurance, you can still pursue compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit against your employer.
Prior to filing a lawsuit, however, it is best to seek legal advice. Why should you do this? Because experienced attorneys, like the personal injury lawyers at Guajardo and Marks LLP, can explain the legal options available to you for pursuing compensation for a workplace injury. Receiving legal guidance increases your chances of having a strong personal injury case. A personal injury lawsuit requires proving how your employer’s negligence caused your injury. Proving fault in an accident is not always as simple as it sounds. But, you can do it with legal guidance from a personal injury lawyer who knows what it takes to prove negligence on the part of your employer.
In addition to seeking compensation for your medical bills and lost income, a lawsuit allows you to seek pain and suffering. Workers’ compensation does not provide benefits for pain and suffering. What’s more, you give up your right to file a personal injury lawsuit against your employer over your injury if you receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Should You File a Lawsuit or Apply for Workers’ Compensation?
Whether you file a lawsuit or a workers’ compensation claim will depend on a number of factors, such as the type of injury you suffered. Sometimes, it’s difficult to know what to do. Let’s look at two scenarios that illustrate this point:
- An employee whose arm was crushed by malfunctioning machinery will need a long time to recover. Unfortunately, the employee cannot work and may lose a significant amount of income. Should the employee file a lawsuit or pursue workers’ compensation benefits?
- What should an employee do when the employer denies the workers’ compensation claim and tells the person to return to work?
If you find yourself having to make tough decisions after suffering a workplace injury or illness, seek legal advice. A lawyer can protect your right to pursue compensation and provide information that helps you to make informed decisions.