Find out everything you need to know about dealing with a work injury, from when to report it to when you need a workers’ comp attorney.
If you’ve just been in a work accident for the first time, you might feel disoriented – not only by the injuries you suffered, but also by the confusing workers’ compensation process. You’re not sure what you’re supposed to do next.
Let us guide you through some work injury basics.
What Counts as a Work Accident?
Work accidents can take a number of different forms. They range from the dramatic, like construction accidents and machine entanglements to everyday accidents like slip and falls.
Other common types of work accidents include:
- Motor vehicle collisions that happen while performing work duties
- Chemical exposures
- Being struck by a falling object
- Developing injuries from repetitive stress motions
How the accident actually happened matters less than where and when the accident occurred. Workers’ compensation insurance in New Jersey covers employees as long as the injury “is arising out of and in the course of the employment,” reported the New Jersey Division of Risk Management. If you were on the clock or working for your employer at the time of the accident, then state law requires that your injury be covered by workers’ compensation insurance.
When to Report the Accident
You should always report a work accident immediately.
Don’t be afraid that you will get in trouble. Don’t think that you need to wait to see how serious the injury is or take the time to look for evidence that your employer is the one in the wrong.
Just report it.
If it turns out that you’re not seriously hurt, you’ve lost nothing by reporting an accident right away. If anything, your report could encourage your employer to take additional safety precautions – so that there won’t be a more serious injury in the future.
But if you are badly hurt, you’ll be glad that you made the report. You can start accessing workers’ compensation benefits sooner rather than later. You’re not giving the insurance carrier an easy way to deny you benefits, because you documented the accident when it happened.
So, if you got hurt at work and you haven’t reported the injury yet, don’t wait any longer. Make the report now.
When to See a Doctor
The sooner you see a doctor after a work injury, the better. Sure, your life is busy, and there are plenty of other ways you would rather spend your time. But trying to press on when you have a serious injury isn’t tough or noble – it’s dangerous. You could be making the damage worse by waiting.
Plus, the longer you wait, the more difficult it may become to get the medical benefits you’re entitled to. If you don’t see a doctor for a week after the accident, the workers’ comp insurance carrier might try to argue that you weren’t really injured in the work accident, but instead, in an event that occurred outside of work.
There really is no reason to wait. Workers’ comp insurance covers medical treatments for your injuries. Tests, physical therapy, and even surgeries are all covered.
When to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Have your injuries turned out to be something serious? Did they cause additional problems with any pre-existing injuries you might have? Has the workers’ comp insurance company denied your claim or given you a hard time? Then it’s time to call a workers’ comp lawyer.
Work accident victims contact attorneys for all kinds of reasons. Sometimes they realize they just aren’t being offered the money they deserve. Other times, it takes missing a good deal of time at work to realize how serious the situation is.
Maybe their employer makes them fear for their job. Or they realize that they might have a case against someone else who contributed to the accident besides their employer – but they will need help to sort out the workers’ comp claim from what we call a third-party case.
Basically, if you’re starting to wonder if you need a workers’ comp lawyer, that’s a sign that you should – at the very least – call an attorney for a free consultation.
Don’t Fall for Workers’ Comp Myths
Do you believe that your employer must be completely at fault for the accident for you to have benefits? What about the idea that your employer can fire you for using workers’ comp benefits? Or the misconception that you have all the time in the world to pursue a claim?
When you don’t know the facts, it’s easy to make a mistake that could hurt your future. The myths are just that – myths. But here’s the truth:
You Can Have a Workers’ Comp Claim Even If You’re at Fault for the Accident
You don’t need to be able to prove that your employer is at fault for your injury. In fact, your employer’s workers’ comp coverage applies even if you’re the one at fault.
So don’t let an employer or a coworker talk you out of getting benefits because you’re afraid the employer will try to blame you. That tactic won’t stop you from getting the help you deserve after a work injury.
You Can’t Get Fired for Pursuing a Workers’ Comp Case
At least, not legally. NJ prohibits employers from retaliating against employees for using their workers’ compensation benefits.
Your employer probably doesn’t want to get in legal trouble. But if you’re still worried about losing your job because you pursue a case, keep in mind that having a workers’ compensation attorney on your side can help you make sure your case goes smoothly – and help you understand your legal options if it doesn’t.
There Are Time Limits on Your Claim
Our attorneys always recommend reporting work accidents right away – for more reasons than one. There are deadlines on workers’ comp cases.
First of all, if you make the mistake of not reporting the accident within the first 14 days, “no compensation shall be due until such notice is given or knowledge obtained,” the New Jersey Division of Risk Management reported.
And if you have to pursue a workers’ comp lawsuit or a third-party personal injury case against someone other than your employer, your rights here are limited, too. The statute of limitations for claims like these is typically just two years in NJ – and in some cases, even shorter.
The workers’ compensation claims process can be long and, at times, frustrating. If you need help figuring out what to do after a work accident, we’re here to answer your questions.