Posted on 09-25-2017
I Got Injured At Work...Now What?
As my avid blog followers are aware I am a Baltimore Chiropractor with two chiropractic clinics in Baltimore. We focus on treating and rehabilitating acute musculoskeletal disorders. Typically we see a lot of trauma in our offices. Patients have either been hurt while participating in sports, while working, or while driving. A lot of these acute injures require treatment immediately following the injury. Often times patients come to ask questions about what rights they have following an acute injury. What steps should they be taking to protect their rights? Who will pay for their needed care? What is the process outlined from start to finish?
In our everyday lives we have a decent understanding of the process when it comes to using health insurance. That is, we go to the doctor when we are sick. Then, tests are ordered, results reviewed, and treatment and/or medications are given. We understand that process because we've been through it in our lives countless times. But what happens if you are hurt at work? What steps do you need to take to make sure your rights are protected? Of course this goes without saying - but I am not an attorney and none of what I'm writing should be considered legal advice. If you have specific questions about a specific case please contact us and we can do our best to refer you to a qualified worker's compensation attorney who can answer your questions.
So you were injured at work - now what? The first thing you need to do is to inform your employer of the injury. They need to document what you were doing at the time of your injury. They may send you to an urgent care or emergency room for evaluation and treatment. By all means you should head there even during your current shift for prompt diagnosis and treatment. There they can do any blood work, diagnostic testing, and or x-rays, CT scans, and MRIs that may be needed depending on the extent of your injury. The treating provider can either place you on work restrictions (i.e. restricted activity or light duty work responsibilities) or total disability if your injury precludes you from working.
The next step is probably the most important. You need to make sure to make a claim with the Maryland Worker's Compensation Commission. We've had plenty of patients over the years say that they don't want to open to claim because their employer is "a nice guy" or that "they've agreed to pay all the bills." If I had a nickel for every time I heard that one! Ultimately by filing a claim with the WCC you are protecting your rights as an injured worker - you are not necessarily suing your employer. Since it is legally required for all employers to carry worker's compensation insurance it is not a big deal to open a claim, as your employer will have coverage already.
Here are some common questions and answers regarding worker's compensation injuries in Maryland:
1. Do non-citizens and non-residents have rights to file worker's compensation claims? - Yes they do. Citizenship or lack thereof does not preclude any injured worker from filing a claim. This is the same for motor vehicle collisions (auto accidents) in Baltimore as well.
2. Why should I file a claim? - You want to file a claim to protect your rights as an injured worker. If you do file a claim, you have the right to receive medical treatment. You can choose any provider you want to see. You do not have to go to treatment with a doctor that your employer or their worker's compensation carrier sends you to. It is your choice where to go. You have the right to be paid 2/3 of your salary during the time that you are not able to work. If you have received permanent impairment such that you might not fully recover, you are entitled to compensation for that injury's lifetime value. You are also entitled to future medical care if your injury requires it for the rest of your life. But again, the only person who knows how to protect your rights in these scenarios are worker's compensation attorneys.
3. Can I be fired for opening a worker's compensation claim? - No you can not. If you are fired for having opened a claim you may have other options and would need to speak to an employment lawyer.
4. Should I use my own health insurance to pay for care during treatment of my worker's compensation injury? - No you shouldn't. The Maryland worker's compensation system is set up in such a way that there should be no out of pocket costs for injured workers. Having to attend chiropractic care and/or physical therapy alongside other medical doctor follow up visits can be costly and time consuming. If you were to use your own health insurance you'd have to come out of pocket for all applicable copays, coinsurances, and deductibles. Even if you did pay out of pocket, once the health insurance company realized that your injuries were the result of a worker's compensation injury, they'd reject all bills and ask you to pay them back for everything they've already paid out on your behalf. So again, its best that you protect your interests by speaking with a worker's compensations attorney who can advice you of your financial responsibilities if you are injured.
5. Do I need to hire an attorney to handle my Maryland worker's compensation claim for me? Technically speaking you do not need to. If you were well versed in the proceedings and your rights, then by all means you can represent yourself. However I've found that most people are woefully under-prepared to handle their own worker's compensation proceedings due to filing deadlines and commission hearings. Nearly every commissioner at the Maryland Worker's Compensation Commissions advises unrepresented injured workers that they should consult with an attorney. These attorneys are specifically trained in handling worker's compensation claims. There is no cost to hire one on your behalf and they only get paid if and when you receive an award for your injury. So like anything else - the cost of NOT having an attorney may well surpass the cost of having one when you factor in their expertise.
Being injured at work and suffering from a work-related injury is a terrible event. However, getting you back on your feet and back to work does not need to be such a difficult process. If you, or someone you know, has been injured while working and you require rehabilitation for these injuries please contact Mid-Atlantic Spinal Rehab & Chiropractic at (443) 842-5500. We have two convenient locations in Baltimore and we can see you today to get you started on the road to recovery. If you have questions about your rights we can help refer you to a worker's compensation attorney that can answer your questions and protect your rights.
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