What If I’m Injured at My Work?
If you’re injured at work, filing for workers’ compensation benefits in Utah can be complicated and time-consuming. You and your family depend on these benefits to help when you’re unable to help yourself or your family.
You might be surprised to learn that many employers turn hostile if you have to open up a claim. This is because their insurance rates are determined by claims made by injured employees, and the lower the number of claims, the lower the amount of their insurance premiums. So some will offer to pay for a visit or two to a doctor so they don’t have to get workers comp involved. Maybe they’ll comp you an ER visit or the ambulance ride or pay for some medications. Rest assured, however, that your employer is doing this to save money and are likely unwilling to pay the benefits that you might normally be entitled to if you filed a proper workers comp claim.
Common Types of Work Injuries.
There are many ways a worker can be hurt on the job or in traveling from one job site to another. Some of these injuries come about because of equipment defects or malfunctions, and some from the safety violations of co-workers, contractors, and even business owners.
According to NSC, the National Safety Council, the top three workplace injuries that result in lost work days include: (1) overexertion (33.54%), (2) contact with objects and equipment (26%), and (3) slips, trips, and falls (25.8%).
Overexertion Injury. Breaking it down further, common injuries from overexertion can include a back injury (the most common exertion injury of them all), neck injury (you can even get this at a desk job!), hernia from lifting too much, blood clots from sitting too long in the same position, muscle or ligament tears, joint injuries, etc.
Contact with Objects and Equipment Injury. This second-most common injury can include being struck against an object, being struck by an object, being caught in an object or equipment, and being caught in material that is collapsing. Examples include construction workers being stuck by building materials, cars slipping off of jacks, being sandwiched between a moving vehicle or load and a stationary one, etc. These types of injuries have a high fatality rate because of how injured a person can become if they are injured this way. These types of injuries also include amputation injuries where a person’s hand, arm, leg, etc., come in unsafe contact with something dangerous, such as a moving saw blade or live electrical current! According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, more than 10,000 amputation work injuries are reported each year. Injuries from this type of injury can include death, traumatic brain injury (TBI), broken and shattered bones, and permanent spinal cord injuries. And like overexertion injuries, most of these injuries are completely preventable and can come from working while distracted, with faulty equipment, receiving negligent training, etc.
Slips, Trips, and Falls. The third most common injury is only slightly less prevalent than coming into contact with a hazardous item or equipment. According to the NSC, people involved in the construction industry top the list. These falls can range from falling to a lower level on a construction site to falling on a wet floor in the break room. These falls are “100 percent preventable,” according to the NSC. Of course, the worker still needs to exercise their common sense, but an employer will still generally be responsible for them when they happen. Injuries will range from a scratch or concussion to a TBI or even death.
Hispanic Construction Worker Injuries Are on the Rise.
People who work in the construction and industrial industries are more likely to be seriously injured than those that don’t. And according to reports, Hispanic workers are more likely to get injured than their non-Hispanic co-workers. And the rate of Hispanic injuries and deaths is only going up, even though overall worker fatalities have gone down, per the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. The higher incidence is probably related to inadequate training, perhaps brought on by a language barrier. Hispanics, particularly those that are undocumented, are also more likely to get the more dangerous jobs, leading to a higher rate of injury and death.
If an employer has been negligent with their training, this can lead to a favorable outcome and settlement.
Two Types of Workplace Claims.
When attorneys look at a workplace injury, they will first determine whether this is a pure workplace injury caused by your employer, a co-worker, or yourself. They will also look to see if the injury was caused completely or partially by a “third party,” someone other than a co-worker or yourself.
An example of a third-party claim could be that you’re running an errand for your employer, and you get in a car crash because of someone else’s negligence. In this situation, there would be a claim against your employer if you were in the “course and scope” of your employment with your company. In addition, there would be a potential claim against the negligent person that caused the crash to happen.
Another example is if you get injured because of a defective machine. You would primarily have a claim against your employer with a potential third-party claim against the manufacturer of the defective equipment.
Making a Workplace Injury Claim with Your Employer
First, if you were hurt on the job, you have a right to file a workers’ compensation claim with your employer. While you may get pushback from your company or boss, this is your right, and it is illegal for a Utah employer to punish you for making a workplace injury claim or to avoid accepting the claim. Most employers in Utah carry workers’ comp insurance for this very reason. You also have a right to bring a claim against a negligent third party who contributed to your injury or against your employer if they didn’t carry said insurance.
Remember that you have only 180 days to report a claim to your employer. Ideally, you should report your injury claim right after you become aware of it. Some injuries are a lot more subtle than others. So, if your arms have been acting up at your desk job and you think you have carpal tunnel syndrome, you should get this checked out and report the findings to your employer as soon as you can.
After you report your injuries, your employer will need to fill out a form called an Employer’s First Report of Injury or Illness Form. (Click HERE for the form.)
Your employer then has 7 days to submit this form to their insurance carrier, and they are required by Utah law to give you a copy of this form. Additionally, if the injury is considered serious, where you may have broken bones or require hospitalization, your employer is required within 8 hours to call and report the injury to the Utah OSHA department at (801) 530-6901. The employer is also required to inform you of your rights and obligations of the Utah Worker’s Compensation Act (discussed below).
In addition to this paperwork, the first medical provider you see for your workplace injury is required to also submit a form called the “Physician’s First Report of Injury or Illness.” (Click HERE to see a copy of this).
Following your employer’s submission of the form, the insurance company has 21 days to decide whether to accept the claim or not. If the insurance company decides they need more information, they are required to notify you of this, and once they do, they have an additional 24 days in which to investigate your claim to decide whether to accept or deny it.
Your Rights and Obligations Under Utah Law.
Utah law gives you a number of rights if you have been injured on the job. These rights include the following:
- Medical Expenses. You have the right to have all reasonable medical expenses paid that are part of your workplace injury or illness. You also have the right to receive compensation for travel costs to your different medical providers. If your initial injury required an emergency visit, then these bills will be covered by the facility you chose to go to. If you are scheduling your first medical visit, then you probably will have to go to a medical provider within your employer’s “Preferred Provider Organization” or PPO (if they told you about this in advance). For example, if your employer has insurance through WCF Insurance, they have their own network of providers that can be accessed by clicking HERE. Keep in mind that after you initially see the required PPO that, you have the right to change your provider once during the time of your claim.
- Compensation Benefits. Typically, you will be able to collect 2/3 of your wages (up to 100% of the “state average weekly wage”) if the doctor says you are unable to work. If your total claim for wage reimbursement is less than 14 days, then you won’t get any money for the first 3 days.
- Permanent Impairment Benefits. If a doctor finds that you are permanently disabled from your industrial injury, you may qualify for disability compensation based on the doctor’s impairment rating. The exact amount depends on the rating you receive.
- Permanent and Total Disability Benefits. If you are deemed to be permanently and totally disabled, you will likely need to have a hearing at the Utah Labor Commission to decide on benefits that may be due. This is where an attorney will come in handy to make sure you can maximize the benefits that may be available.
- Dependent Benefits. If the employee loses their life because of a workplace accident, then in addition to funeral and burial benefits, the employee’s dependents may be eligible for monthly support payments. Click HERE for more information. LINK: https://jobs.utah.gov/usor
- Reemployment Assistance. If you are unable to continue in your prior job because of your injury, then you may be eligible for help in transitioning to a different occupation.
The obligations the State wants you to know about when you make a comp claim include the following:
- See the Company Doc First. The law requires that if your employer has a preferred doctor on their network, you are required to see this doctor. The penalty, which isn’t too steep, is that you may have to pay the difference between what your employer’s doctor would charge versus what your doctor charges.
- Disclosure of Your Medical Records. If you want to bring a comp claim, you must agree that your past medical records are fair game for the insurance company to examine. This will usually include their investigation of any mental health treatment you may have received.
- Cooperate with the Investigation. In making a claim, you agree to cooperate and provide all information requested by the insurance company.
- Do Your Part to Get Better. If a doctor is recommending that you do something to get better, you are required to follow their recommendations so you can return to work as quickly as possible. This obligation doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to go back to work if you are being pushed by your doctor when you are not medically ready to go back to work.
- Voice Your Concerns, if Any. Along the path, you can contact the Utah Labor Commission, Division of Industrial Accidents for questions you may have regarding your rights and obligations. Their phone number is 801-530-6800.
Do I Need an Attorney for My Worker’s Comp Claim?
You are not required to have an attorney to successfully pursue a worker’s compensation claim. If you are denied benefits, however, a worker’s comp attorney can help make sure things are filed correctly and all deadlines are met, and will represent you at any hearings that may be required in your case. Your attorney can also help you decide if you should bring a claim against a third party for injury. And even though the law generally says you can’t sue your employer if you have been injured in the workforce, you can still sue others, such as contractors, suppliers, and other third parties who contributed in some way to your job injury. Your attorney will also help when the employer disputes that you were injured as badly as you say you were (they’re calling you a faker) or disputes things such as whether they will cover certain medical procedures, the value of your impairment rating when you can return to work and what the value of your compensation benefits should be. Your personal injury attorney can also help you on appeal if your compensation claim is denied.
Give us a call today to see if we can help you with your work injury claim. We will review your case and give you an assessment of your case: 385-438-3206. You can also submit the FREE Case Review form by clicking HERE.