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Knowing the procedure to follow if an accident occurs at work can make all the difference between succeeding with a workers’ compensation claim and facing steep medical bills on your own. While each workplace injury happens in a different way that is unique to the setting, the job being done and the people doing the work, there are six steps everyone should take to protect their health, make the workplace safer moving forward and give themselves the best chance for receiving workers’ comp benefits.
From our decades of experience in advising and representing people who suffered injuries on the job in Columbus and across Ohio, we are confident in stating that here is what to do after an accident at work.
Always have an EMT, nurse practitioner or doctor check you out following a workplace accident in which injuries occur. Even if you think you are fine, a cut may not be as minor as you believe, concussion symptoms can take hours to fully develop and damage to lungs from inhaling a toxic substance can grow progressively worse without quick treatment.
Make protecting your own health your top priority. If you do not require treatment, you at least gain peace of mind. Alternately, the diagnosis and insurance claims generated from the visit form the basis for asking the workers’ compensation program to cover your medical bills.
You may not have a clear recollection of how the accident occurred. You might also learn that your accident was not an isolated incident or just one of several bad things that could have happened because of unsafe equipment, poor management, or lack of compliance with safety rules.
Input from coworkers and information about how to prevent future accidents can go into a report you file with your employer. You might also determine that it makes sense to alert regulators or speak with a personal injury lawyer.
File an Accident Report
When your health permits, report the work-related accident and injury to your manager and supervisor. Your employer may have a formal process for making such a report. If no specific forms exist, write out what happened and deliver the report to your boss and your boss’ boss.
Receiving your report obligates your employer to investigate both what happened and why it happened. The findings from that investigation can be used to support your workers’ comp claim.
Importantly, federal and state laws prohibit employers from punishing or firing workers who call attention to safety problems. If you suffer retaliation, you can sue as a whistleblower or seek compensation for violations of your rights as an employee.
Complying with treatment and return-to-work plans helps you recover. Keeping appointments, filling prescriptions and completing courses of therapy also limit the number of arguments your employer, its insurance company and the workers’ comp program can raise against your claim. If your case goes to a hearing, expect to hear arguments that you do not deserve workers’ compensation benefits because you were not hurt badly enough to need medical care, you did not put off family trips, or even that you managed to do yardwork and shop for groceries while you were off the job.
Hold on to all the paperwork you receive from doctors, pharmacists, and therapists. Save emails and texts related to your workers’ comp claim, and take notes on conversations and phone calls. Documentation matters in every type of insurance matter—which is, at its root, what a workers’ compensation case is.
You do not need to hire a lawyer in order to apply for and receive workers’ comp benefits. Partnering with an attorney can help, however.
Relying on a legal ally who knows how to navigate the Ohio workers’ compensation system frees you up to concentrate on recovering and returning to your job. And if your initial claim is denied, your lawyer will be ready to step up and pursue appeals.
Attorneys in the Columbus offices of Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman offer free consultations on workers’ comp claims. You can schedule an appointment online or call us at (614) 221-3318 or (800) 678-3318.