Workers Compensation is every employee’s worst nightmare. If you’re been injured on the job, no matter how much your employer was at fault, you may be hesitant to file a claim, fearing any number of ramifications, from retaliation by your employer to losing in court and having to pay out.
Fortunately, these fears are generally unfounded and stem from common misunderstandings of the process. Employees should know that Workers Compensation was designed to protect you, not your employer. The insurance companies may be working against you, but the law generally favors you and your ability to get back on your feet after being injured on the job.
Understanding how the system actually works may help eliminate your fears and hesitations about filing a claim so that you can move forward and receive the payout that’s lawfully yours.
Here, we’ll cover 10 key things that every worker should know about Workers’ Compensation.
1. Reporting Your Injury Right Away Will Go a Long Way
One of the biggest mistakes we see is a hesitation or failure to report an on-the-job injury. With every moment that passes, you’re losing valuable time to receive the medical care you need, gather evidence and support for your claim, and begin the tedious claim process. Besides the fact that your injuries are going untreated and you’re losing precious time and money, you’re also delaying an already lengthy process.
Once your accident is reported to the Industrial Commission, the insurance carrier has 21 days to either accept or deny the claim. If they accept the claim, they have another 7 to 14 days to issue you a check. If they deny your claim, or you feel that they’re original offer is unfair, then we need to take them to court. The litigation process can take anywhere from 4 to 7 months – even longer if there are appeals or delays. So, best case scenario, you’ll be waiting at least 28 days for a check after your accident. It’s best not to delay and report your injury right away.
2. You Don’t Have to Pay for a Lawyer Up Front
Hiring a workers’ comp attorney shouldn’t be an expense that comes out of your pocket. Our job is to help you get back on your feet, not make your finances worse. When you hire our firm, we’ll get our fees from the insurance company and you don’t have to pay a dime. Any costs that accrue during the course of the claim or litigation will be covered by us and we’ll get reimbursed from the insurance company payout at the end of the case. It’s another one of the many reasons that hiring an attorney can be a huge relief.
3. Your Employer is Required to Provide you With Their Workers Comp Coverage Information
Every employer is required by law to have a workers’ compensation plan, procedure and coverage. This information should be provided to you when you’re hired, but that’s not always the case or you may just not remember. When you’re injured, ask your employer for documentation and details about their workers’ comp coverage right away – maybe even before you report your accident, so you can see what’s in their policy. Do this immediately, though, and report your injury ASAP.
4. Your Employer Can’t Fire You for Making a Claim
A common fear, many workers who are injured on the job worry that filing a claim will upset their employer and result in being fired. The truth is that it’s against the law for your employer to fire you for filing a workers’ compensation claim. If they do, they’ve actually made our jobs much easier. Strategically speaking, it would be very difficult for them to prove that firing you was unrelated to the accident which ultimately proves our case.
That said, the last thing we want is for you to lose your job and the chances of it happening are slim. Employers and business owners are aware of the laws and should be fully informed that filing a workers’ compensation claim is well within the law and your rights.
5. Your Worker’s Comp Claim Will Not Be a Permanent Mark on Your Work History
Filing a workers compensation claim doesn’t follow you around like a criminal conviction. There will be no record of the claim that future potential employers can pull up and they can’t hold it against you if you mention it. At the most, you may be asked on an application if you’ve ever been injured on the job. Don’t be afraid to answer this question honestly. Be sure to say ‘Yes’ and give them requested details, within reason. It will not tarnish your record, make you look bad, or dissuade someone from hiring you.
6. Not Just Any Medical Provider Will Do
Workers comp payments are typically calculated using a formula, using a combination of the type of injury you sustained, the severity of the injury, and your average weekly salary over the last 52 weeks, with a few other variables thrown in, as well. It’s a complicated process and requires a concrete understanding of the math so you know you’re getting a fair payout.
Because the type and severity of the injury are critical to the calculations, it’s important that you see the right medical provider, particularly one who knows how workers comp claims work. Not just any doctor understands that the records need to be meticulous and that every injury associated with the accident needs to be given ample attention. We can set you up with a doctor or provider who’s accustomed to treating workers comp patients which will help prove your case and get you the best payout for your injuries possible.
7. You Can Receive Medical Treatment for the Rest of Your Life
If your injuries are serious enough that you require medical care for the rest of your life, workers compensation can cover that, so you need not fear that your payments will expire while you still need medical help.
When you first file your claim, you’re listed in the Active Care Phase. The purpose of this phase is to heal you and make you better. If you reach what’s known as Maximum Medical Improvement, and your doctors determine that nothing else can be done for you even though you’re not in the same condition you were before the accident, then you’ll be given an Impairment, or Disability Rating. Based on this rating, you’ll receive lifelong Supportive Care to cover the costs of your ongoing medical needs.
8. Filing Your Claim Doesn’t Make You a Burden – It’s Your Right
Many have fears that filing a workers’ compensation claim makes them look like a burnden on the system – somebody who’s living off the system or other peoples’ tax dollars.
While we fully appreciate your work ethic, the reality is that you’ve paid into the workers’ compensation system every time you earned a paycheck. The state of Arizona recognizes that you’ve been an active part of society, lawfully working and contributing to the system. They also anticipated the possibility of you getting injured – because it happens. They happen every day, to hard working citizens just like you. And the workers compensation system was specifically designed to help support you when you’ve been injured while doing your part. Filing a claim is your right and there is no shame in asserting it.
9. You Don’t Have to Be a Medical or Financial Expert to Win
Another common fear from clients is that they won’t have the capacity to answer the insurance companies confusing questions. We won’t pretend that their questions aren’t complex, – and, yes; they’re purposefully designed to throw you off. But that’s where we come in. As we noted earlier, it is possible to receive a workers’ comp payout without an attorney, but the likelihood of receiving the best possible payment is low. Insurance companies go out of their way to save money, even if it’s unethical or unfair. This is no secret.
When you work with us, we surround your case with a team of experts – legal, medical and financial. We partner with the best workers’ comp doctors and financial analysts so we can thwart the insurance companies attempt to short-change you. Our team will answer the complex questions so you don’t have to.
10. Yes, Winning Your Claim is Actually Possible!
Horror stories of workers’ compensation claims are out there and often cloud our clients’ beliefs about the possibility of winning. The truth is that for every horror story you’ve heard, there are hundreds of other claims that were paid out successfully and fairly. The key is in understanding your rights and hiring a good attorney. Many claims are paid out without the help of a lawyer, but they likely received far less from the insurance companies than what they would have with the representation of a good law firm.
Our approach is knowledgeable and strategic. We know all of the insurance companies games and have years of experience in combating their ploys to rip you off. By initiating our help early on in the process, we can get you to the right doctors, gather the most convincing evidence and cleverly negotiate with the insurance companies to get you every dime you deserve.
Our dependable team of Workers’ Compensation lawyers in Phoenix is ready to fight for the support you need and deserve.