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Everything You Need to Know About Workers' Compensation

Part 1 of 2

Workers' Comp - Getting Started
Workers' compensation insurance is available in every state to provide for the expenses of a workplace injury or illness. If you are injured on the job or develop a work-related illness, you need to take specific steps to secure your benefits. Because workers' comp insurance is managed by the state, you will need to search for information under the Bureau of Workers' Compensation or Division of Workers' Compensation for your state.

As soon as you recognize that your injury or illness is work-related, you need to follow specific steps promptly so that you do not forfeit compensation you could be due. You and your employer can likely follow through on your claim without the services of a lawyer. Filing a workers' compensation claim should be and typically is a routine procedure that provides for the medical bills and a percentage of lost wages. Temporary or long-term disability payment is available for workers whose work-related illness or injury is serious enough that you will not be at your pre-injury condition for an extended period of time or even perhaps ever.

What are the steps? What are the benefits? When should you settle? Do you need a lawyer?

The Process
Get emergency medical help - If you have a life-threatening injury, get the medical help you need immediately. Do not delay treatment because you are concerned about filing your claim.

Collect evidence - Once your medical situation is stable, if you are still at the accident site, collect evidence. You can identify witnesses and take photos. Witnesses can be anyone who was around at the time of the injury. Witnesses may be passerby's, delivery personnel, or other non-employees of your workplace. You may not need to collect statements at this time; just get their contact information in case a statement is needed later. Snap a few photos of the accident site. If the cause of the accident is evident (something such as a spill or a hazardous use of equipment), snap a picture. Take a picture of any physical injury you have sustained.

Notify your employer - For many workers, notifying the employer is the first important step. If your medical condition is not life threatening, and if you have already left the scene of the accident, in writing notify someone in a managerial position at your work. Your employer may direct you to employer-provided medical care or may want you to go to your own doctor. Employers generally have forms available for the purpose of notification. You will be asked the date, time, place, and how the injury occurred. Generally, there is a window of 30-45 days in which you can file your notification. The notification process may be waived if you employer does not expect notification or if you are unable to give notification for a viable reason such as hospitalization. Notification may also be waived if your employer knows about the injury or should have known about it. Giving immediate written notification to your employer helps protect your rights.