Were you injured at work at no fault of your own and are now facing medical bills for treatment of your injury? Has your injury rendered you unable to work? Are you wondering if you can file a personal injury claim to obtain monetary compensation for your losses?
We’d like to go over, first and foremost, what to do if you’re injured at work in order to receive workers’ compensation for medical bills and lost wages.
Firstly, it’s imperative that you report your injury to your employer as quickly as possible to protect your right to workers’ compensation. Next, you should file a claim with the workers’ compensation court in New York. The court and your employer’s insurance company will then have notice of your injury.
It’s also illegal for your employer to make you fear any sort of reprisal for filing a claim with workers’ compensation, and that is also illegal. If your employer intentionally makes it difficult for you to exercise these rights, they can face severe penalties.
You are generally barred from suing your own employer. However, when a third party’s negligence (not your employer’s) causes your injury, you may be able to file a lawsuit against them. For example, if you are injured by a faulty piece of equipment manufactured by a company other than your employer, you can file a lawsuit against that company in order to obtain monetary compensation for your losses. Workers’ compensation will cover medical expenses and lost wages (economic damages), but will not pay for your pain and suffering (non-economic damages). In a personal injury lawsuit, you can seek non-economic damages in addition to economic damages.
We offer up a strong example of why you should always seek medical attention after you’ve sustained an injury – whether it’s at work or not. Ian T. Hintz, a repair technician for Farmers Cooperative Association in Nebraska, was hard at work last November repairing a tire off a semitrailer when the tire exploded, throwing him approximately 10 feet in the air. Although he was experiencing pain in his hips and groin, Hintz did not seek medical attention because he was afraid to get Farmers “in trouble”. After the incident, he left work and did not return the next day, but did return to work the following Monday.
Hintz continued to work, but indicated that he only did “a little” at the time. Farmers, his employer, claimed the opposite – that Hintz was fully completing all his job assignments. Hintz would have been better off seeking medical attention right away. Less than a month later, Hintz tripped walking up the stairs in his home. After he fell, Hintz went for medical treatment and was referred to a surgeon, who corrected a severe labral tear.
Following his surgery, Hintz was out of work for three months and eventually, terminated by Farmers Cooperative Association. Hintz filed a petition with the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court for disability benefits, but his claim was denied. An expert for Farmers testified, after examining medical records (but never Hintz himself), that Hintz’s labral tear was a result of his tripping up his stairs, and not a result of his incident at work. But, Hintz’s surgeon disagreed, testifying that “the labral tear that was corrected in surgery was severe, and it was likely to have been caused by a high-energy work injury, not just falling up the steps.”
Hintz was denied Workers’ Comp. And the sad truth is, had he went for medical treatment following his initial incident and after experiencing pain in both his hips and his groin, Farmers may have granted him Workers’ Comp without choice in the matter since causation of his injury would have been clearly established. Not seeking medical attention after an incident can always put a dent in a plaintiff’s claim. Injuries that are unchecked can become worse. An immediate medical diagnosis (directly following an incident) is imperative in establishing liability against a defendant.
Hintz ended up appealing, and luckily, the appeals court found the compensation court’s decision to be wrong. Hintz presented medical evidence that his labral tear was the result of the November 13th work incident. And furthermore, the surgeon, unlike the medical expert hired by Farmers, was a much more credible source having had performed the surgery on Hintz. His testimony that the labral tear was much more likely to have been caused by a “high-energy work injury” weighed more in the eyes of the appeals court than the testimony of the other medical experts involved in the case.
Remember, no matter what type of incident you are involved with, the faster you seek medical attention the better. You may fear a bad diagnosis, you may not feel you have an injury, or you may fear medical bills…but seeking medical attention is always for the best.