The aftermath of a workplace injury can be stressful. In addition to the physical pain after being hurt, your mind is likely racing with a number of difficult questions about how long you will be out of work and how you will be able to support your family.
Workers’ compensation is the most common option workers have if they are injured on the job. (Although a work injury attorney can advise you of additional claims you may have.) To qualify for workers’ comp benefits (and to protect your right to pursue other legal options), you need to follow these steps:
1. Get Medical Care
The first thing to do after a workplace injury is to seek medical attention. The validity of your claim will be evaluated in large part by the information provided by your doctors, so this is a crucial first step for receiving benefits.
For your first visit, you can see any doctor. This could be your general practitioner or, in the event of a serious injury, an emergency room physician. Subsequent care must be provided by a doctor who is certified by the Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC). The BWC-certified provider is responsible for approving your treatment plan, coordinating payment of medical bills related to your work injury, and more.
2. Report the Accident to Your Employer
Next, you should report the accident to your employer promptly. Not only is this a requirement for injured workers in Ohio, it is also the best way to begin the claims process and start receiving benefits as soon as possible.
Some workers hesitate to report an accident because they are worried their employer will fire them. However, this is illegal under Ohio law:
“No employer shall discharge, demote, reassign, or take any punitive action against any employee because the employee filed a claim or instituted, pursued or testified in any proceedings under the workers’ compensation act for an injury or occupational disease which occurred in the course of and arising out of his employment with that employer.”
In other words, if your employer tries to fire you or take action against you because you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, you could sue your employer for any losses that result from the retaliation.
3. File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
After you receive medical care, your doctor is required to submit a claim to your employer’s managed care organization (MCO). Your employer may also file a claim with the Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation, though it is important that injured workers are actively involved in the process to ensure their claim is submitted and the evaluation has begun.
Keep in mind that if your employer is self-insured, you will need to file a claim with your employer directly. You should not rely on your doctor to file a claim because your employer will not have an MCO.
4. Understand Your Rights and Benefits
After a claim is filed, the BWC will send you a notification letter and an ID card. You should receive these documents in the mail within a few days.
While the hope is that your claim will be approved and you will begin to receive benefits, we recommend researching what benefits you deserve through workers’ comp, including how claims are evaluated. Knowledge is power; the better understanding you have of the process, the better you will be able to protect your rights and ensure you receive the benefits you deserve while recovering from your injury.
The BWC, after all, is a bureaucratic organization. Mistakes happen. Understanding what benefits you deserve and how the process works will help you stay aware and informed while giving you the knowledge you need to catch these mistakes and fight for your rights.
5. Contact an Attorney
Without question, workers’ compensation rules and regulations can get confusing. Even if you do your research to understand your rights and benefits, there may be some detail or nuance you are not aware of that could have a significant impact on the benefits you receive.
Working with an attorney can help ensure you are not caught off guard. Experienced workers’ compensation attorneys have a deep understanding of the workers’ comp system and can help you navigate the process, which can be especially helpful if your claim is denied.
Furthermore, an attorney can also help determine if you may be able to recover additional compensation from another party. While workers’ compensation bars employees from suing their employers for on-the-job injuries, if another party contributed to the accident, you may be able to recover more damages than what you can recover through workers’ compensation benefits alone.
While many Ohio workers are able to recover workers’ comp benefits without the assistance of a lawyer, sometimes getting an attorney involved can be the best way to ensure your rights are protected. If you have been injured on the job and are trying to figure out how to move forward, or if your claim has been denied, Colombo Law can help.
Contact a work injury attorney today by calling (614) 362-7000 for a FREE case review. Colombo Law serves clients in Columbus and throughout Ohio.