What to do if you have been hurt in a work accident
You have many rights and responsibilities when you get injured (or one of your employees gets injured) in work accident. This legal guide will touch on some of them and at least give an overview of what you should know.
When the injury first occursEMPLOYEE
The following assumes that you are a proper employee of the company and you have sustained an injury that requires medical treatment. If you are the injured party, immediately think of who witnessed the accident and report it to a supervisor immediately. Many injured workers think that the injury will somehow heal itself or isn't serious enough to report. This mentality will work against you, should you need treatment. Just let your supervisor know, even if you don't think you need treatment right away. Tell the supervisor the witness names (jot them down in your phone or on a piece of paper when you can) and how the accident occurred. Tell the supervisor the injured body parts and request medical attention. The employer has a duty to provide at least an evaluation of your injury/condition. Usually you get sent to a primary care physician, like a walk-in clinic. If the employer wants to send you to some friend of theirs or the company, request a doctor that's not affiliated with the owners or the company.
When you are seen by the medical facility, detail how the accident happened, all of you injuries, and if you have any pre-existing conditions or previous accidents. This is very important information and could result in a denial of your benefits if you forget about previous injuries or conditions.
Next, be sure to follow the advice of the doctor and get all prescriptions filled. If the doctor tell you to stay out of work or do limited duty, give that slip to the employer and follow the instruction to avoid further injury.
If you are an employer and an employee gets hurt at work, immediately contact your workers' compensation insurance carrier and find out where to send the injured worker. Get a list of witnesses and write down how the employee said he/she was hurt. Do whatever the insurance company requires as far as giving the insurance company wage or personnel information. Lastly, honor the doctor's assigned restrictions.
What to do int the days/weeks to followEMPLOYEE
Immediately on the day(s) that follow, call the WC insurance carrier to report the injury, and they will send you a prescription card and ask you to sign a bunch of forms. This is where it gets tricky; how should you know what your signing or if they have a right to have you sign the forms? It would be a good point to contact a lawyer or perhaps post on AVVO the documents you are being asked to sign. The documents are important or they wouldn't ask and you can be sure the documents don't exist to pay you more for your injuries or provide additional medical treatment.
At this point you be sure to do your follow up treatment and follow doctor's assigned work restrictions. Do not let your employer force you to exceed your restrictions, complain in writing.
You should be getting paid 2/3 of about what you earned during the 3 months before the accident. If you aren't something is wrong and you need to seek counsel.
As an employer during this time, be understanding and supportive of your employee. Be well documented as to attendance. Be sure not to treat the injured worker unfairly, as it will be assumed it is being done because he/she got injured at work and can land you a law suit!
Time goes on and you get better or it just doesn't seem like you are getting the treatment you needEMPLOYEE
In the weeks and months that follow, you may feel unsatisfied with your doctor. You do have a right to a new doctor, but, you must request this change of doctor in writing to the adjuster. This is something that you shouldn't likely request without help from an attorney. If you do make the request, fax it to the adjuster and keep a copy of the confirmation of the fax. 5 days from that date, the adjuster needs to provide you with a new doctor, and if the adjuster does not do it, you get to choose the doctor! this one of the only valuable rights of an injured worker. you only get to change once, so, don't ask too soon!
As an employer in this instance, just be sure you are getting documentation from the authorized doctor of the injured worker and do not force the worker to exceed restrictions or come to work if he/she is being ordered to stay home.
Making work available, even it's with help, is a good thing for all.
When you have no more significant treatment and consider settlement of your caseEMPLOYEE
If the parties both agree the case can be settled. If you are still working for the company where you got injured, they may say they will settle your case, but, you need to quit your job. It will be up to you if you want to quit and settle. If you are still unrepresented and you settle your case, the Judge of Compensation Claims will review your settlement and be sure it is in your best interest. Even if the settlement is in your best interest, it doesn't mean you got yourself the best settlement or the most money for your case. The most money would likely be offered if you had an attorney, as the employer/carrier have to consider the possibility of attorney's fees and costs in the matter and they know they cannot pull the wool over a seasoned workers' compensation attorney's eyes! The Supreme Court of Florida has stated in the Castellanos v. Next Door case that the Florida Worker's compensation law is too difficult to navigate without an attorney and I agree. However, some people can do so on their own.
As the employer and policy holder, you have a right to object to the settlement if you would like. This will bring about a hearing before the Judge and you can voice your concerns/objections, but, you will have to hire an attorney. You can also hire an attorney to review the steps taken by your insurance company and ensure that the proper benefits are being paid or denied, if appropriate. Keep in mind that the amount of benefits paid can affect your future insurance premiums and may even restrict your future dealings with the public/clients due to your experience with prior work injuries.