A Santa Rosa workers comp lawyer explains the steps an employee should take after suffering a work-related injury
Employees who are injured at work are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. To protect the right to receive all the benefits the law allows, employees must take a few simple steps. When in doubt, a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can clarify the action an injured employee should take.
1. Get Medical Attention
Work injuries can be mild or they can be life-threatening. The first task of any injured worker is to obtain appropriate medical attention for the injury.
Amputations, deep puncture wounds, chemical burns, and broken bones require immediate medical attention. The injured worker should call 911 or have someone else make the call. If the employer has a nurse or someone with medical training available, that person should be notified so that the injury can be stabilized until paramedics arrive.
Concussions are common work injuries. They can be more serious than they appear. An employee with a concussion should be evaluated by a doctor. Sometimes a concussion causes the brain to swell or bleed. Both are hidden, life-threatening conditions. A prompt evaluation is critical, even if the concussion did not cause a loss of consciousness.
Less serious injuries, such as an ankle sprain or a sore back, may require medical attention, but the injured worker may not need emergency care. In those cases, the injured worker should report the injury to the employer immediately. The injured worker will then be advised as to how and where to obtain the necessary medical care.
Employers cannot prevent an injured worker from receiving care for a work-related injury. If an employer responds to an ankle sprain by saying “Walk it off” or tells an injured worker with a concussion to get back to work, the employer is probably violating the law. Injured workers should not endanger their lives or health by postponing necessary medical care. An injured worker may need legal advice from a Santa Rose workers’ compensation attorney if an employer does not cooperate with the injured worker’s need for medical care.
The injured worker should inform the treating physician or clinic that the injury is work-related. That way, she will not be billed directly for the medical care that is required to treat the work injury.
2. Notify Your Employer
California workers’ compensation law requires an employee to notify the employer of an injury as soon as possible. An injured worker should report an injury to her immediate supervisor as soon as possible. The employer may have designated a person to whom work injuries should be reported. If such a procedure exists, follow it.
If it is possible to report the injury before seeking medical care, the injured worker should do so. The employer may designate a medical clinic or particular physician who will treat the injury. That information should be available on a “Notice to Employees” poster, posted in or around the employees break area.
If the need for emergency care makes it impossible to report the work injury to the employer immediately, do so as soon as possible. Call the employer, or have a friend do so, with information about the cause and nature of the injury and the location of the emergency facility where treatment is being provided.
3. Make a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Within one working day after the injury is reported, an employer must provide the injured worker a workers’ compensation claim form. Fill out the “employee” section of the form and return it to the employer. Within one day after receiving the claim form, the employer must complete the “employer” section of the form and provide it to the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company. The employer must give or mail a copy of the completed form to the injured worker. The injured worker should keep the form in a safe place. An injured worker who needs legal representation will want to give the completed form to his or her Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer.
An injured worker who cannot deliver the completed claim form in person to his or her employer should mail it by certified mail. Use the “return receipt requested” option to make sure proof exists that the employer received the form.
An injured worker who is not sure how to complete the form, or who is not provided a claim form, can ask a workers’ compensation law firm in Santa Rosa for help in making a claim for benefits.
4. Follow Your Doctor’s Advice
An injured worker’s physician is responsible for the injured worker’s treatment, but the physician’s advice is only as good as the information the physician receives. Injured workers should be sure to advise their doctor of every symptom/problem they are suffering from as a result of the injury. If bending or lifting causes pain, tell the doctor. If discomfort makes it difficult to sleep at night, tell the doctor. If headaches are getting worse, tell the doctor. Being shy about reporting health problems may delay treatment, and it could also affect the benefits the injured worker might receive if the injury results in a permanent impairment.
If a doctor advises an injured worker not to return to work, the injured worker should heed that advice. Employers are prohibited from pressuring injured workers to return to work if their doctor advises them to remain off work. If a doctor imposes work restrictions, the injured worker should follow those recommendations. Employers who allow an injured worker to return to work subject to restrictions is prohibited from asking the injured worker to violate those restrictions. If an employer does so, the injured worker should consult with a workers’ compensation attorney in Santa Rosa.
5. Obtain Legal Advice
Injured workers are entitled to temporary disability benefits after missing three days of work and to permanent disability benefits when a doctor determines that an injury will never fully heal. The employer’s insurance company may be reluctant to pay those benefits, and will often try to settle a permanent disability claim for less than its full value.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney at Santa Rosa’s Kneisler & Schondel can help injured workers obtain all the benefits they deserve. To obtain assistance for a work-related injury in Napa or Sonoma County, or elsewhere in Northern California, call (707) 542-5132 or submit our online contact form.