Seeking Workers Comp for Strain and Repetitive Motion Injuries.
Working a job that requires manual labor can be hard on the body. Jobs that require you to strain your muscles may be better for your heart than a desk job, but they also come with certain risks. If you haul boxes or handle machinery, you know there's a certain percent chance of injury. That's why businesses have worker's compensation insurance in the first place.
Workplace Injuries and Long-Term Damage
If you experienced a serious injury at work, of course you would report the injury immediately and file for worker's compensation. It's the right thing to do. But most people don't realize that long-term injuries from repeated strain are also a form of workplace injury. And they also qualify for worker's compensation support.
Many people have suffered long-term physical damage from the work they do. From continuous strain or repeating the same movement thousands of times in a year. Over time, your shoulder may hurt more and more. Or your back may go out over months instead of all at once. Worker's comp exists because jobs can damage your body sometimes, and legally, this is the same as throwing out your back in one fateful box lift.
You still need pain treatment, physical therapy, and a medical recovery plan. And your employer's worker's comp plan should be helping you with these expenses. Along with any compensation you need for recovery or as a long-term result.
Recognizing Work-Related Strain and Motion Injuries
The first step is to recognize whether you have or are developing a long-term injury like strain or repeated motion injuries. Instead of feeling one sharp pain, you may feel growing tension, and then an ache, and then regular pain as you repeat the activities that are causing you physical damage. One joint may complain more over the months, or you may have more trouble with your back over time.
Many people mistake these injuries for 'aging quickly'. But you shouldn't be experiencing actual pain until you reach a considerable age. If you're still hauling boxes, then pain in your joints and muscles is very likely to be some form of injury that could be recovered from. And if the pain didn't start until after a job or new set of physical work tasks, then there is another correlation.
Confirming Your Injury Diagnosis
Of course, you don't have to go on intuition alone. Injuries will have physical evidence. A strained muscle, for example, will be inflamed and tender in a way that a doctor can identify. A shoulder damaged by repetitive motion at work can also be identified by medical professionals. Go see your doctor. Ask them to help you confirm the injury and for advice on how to start your recovery.
A diagnosis of physical injury is also necessary to file a worker's comp claim. Just as you would see a doctor after an injury at work, this diagnosis legitimizes your subjective experience of pain as an objective injury the company is responsible for.
Reporting the Injury to Your Employer
The next step can be easy or hard, depending on your employer. If your workplace is open about hazards and encourages injury reports, then you can simply take your medical documents to your manager and file an injury report. Then consult on how best to approach HR about starting your worker's comp claim.
If you think your workplace might be hostile, then go directly to HR instead. Be honest and friendly, but don't let anyone belittle your injury or convince you not to file an injury report. Complete the report, get a physical and emailed copy of it if you can, and make sure it is submitted. If you're given a reason to delay the submission, insist on updates until it is submitted.
Because you can't file a worker's comp claim until the injury report is submitted.
Filing for a Worker's Compensation Claim
The next step is to actually file your claim. In most cases, this will require putting together a considerable stack of paperwork, including proof of injury and any documentation on your treatment. Your estimation of recovery cost, personal information, medical history, and anything else your employer asks for as part of making the claim may be needed as well.
You may be assigned someone to help you file the claim, you may not. Some workplaces don't have any HR personnel at all. But if you can't figure something out, or if something asked for seems fishy, you can always ask an employment lawyer. Which takes us to our next point.
Seeking a Bay Area Worker's Compensation Attorney
In almost all worker's comp cases, it's best if you are at least in touch with an employment lawyer experienced in worker's comp. There are so many situations where the company (or the insurance agency on behalf of your company) will try to short employees, dis-incentivize them, or lowball them to reduce the size of the claim.
It's also possible to simply make a mistake in your claim and have it rejected on superficial grounds. A worker's compensation lawyer can help you traverse this path that millions of others have gone down before you. Claiming worker's compensation is never a walk in the park, even if your employer is helpful and supportive. An employment attorney can help you understand your rights, complete your documentation correctly, and cut through any red tape put in your way.
Maintaining a Strong Claim
Finally, you want to make sure your claim stays strong even after you file it. Worker's comp can be denied for reasons like reckless behavior, failing to maintain your treatment plan, misrepresenting information, or failing to follow up on something. There are dozens of technicalities that could jeopardize your claim, so it's important to stay on your treatment plan and document everything during the entire worker's comp ordeal.
You may also need to defend yourself from retaliation at work. Your employer may try to belittle your injury to lower your offer, or induce you to quit so your claim will be rejected more easily. It's important to avoid any traps set to keep you from completing your claim by keeping your cool and focusing on work even if things are set against you.
If you have experienced a long-term injury at work, your employer can and should help you with the recovery. Worker's compensation was built to help employees pay for the medical treatments they need after the workplace causes an injury. And it can help you now
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