It is no secret that recovering workers’ compensation benefits can be a challenge after suffering a work injury. This can be incredibly frustrating for injured employees and their families.
However, there are some steps that injured employees can take to protect their rights and secure their workers’ compensation benefits. One of the most important steps employees can take is to keep good records of evidence pertaining to their claim.
Here is a brief overview of some of the records employees should maintain throughout their claim.
1. A copy of the incident report
Most places of employment create an “incident report” following an accident. It is important that upon being injured, an employee reports their accident and injury in a complete report describing the incident. Such a record ensures that the employer has been put on notice of an accident. If possible, employees should keep a copy for themselves, in case an employer later denies knowledge of the accident.
This report should generally include:
- The nature of the injury, including all body parts affected;
- Details of the accident, including what happened, as well as how and where it occurred; and
- The date and time the accident occurred.
2. Copies of medical reports and bills
Obtaining official copies of medical reports is critical for a few reasons:
- Initial medical reports at an emergency room or primary care provider following an accident can help corroborate an injured worker’s account of an accident occurring at work, as well as what body parts were injured as a result of that accident;
- Medical reports offer official evidence of the injury, the healing process and the need for any additional medical care; and
- Medical reports, in the form of a disability certificate or statement regarding physical limitations, are required in order to request accommodations at work or receive monetary benefits, should the injured worker be unable to return to work or the employer be unable to provide accommodations.
Since workers’ compensation benefits often cover an injured employee’s medical bills, it is also important to keep track of these bills in order for providers to be reimbursed for their services.
3. Pay stubs and any financial information
Injured employees should keep and organize any paychecks or pay stubs they receive. In Maryland, the compensation rate, or amount that benefits are paid, are based on the fourteen weeks of pay for an injured worker prior to a work accident. This calculation is known as the average weekly wage (Maryland Code, Labor & Employment § 9-602). To receive the correct amount of compensation, the average weekly wage must be accurate.
Counsel is the best way to ensure a claim is properly handled
Although an injured worker can file a claim on their own and represent themselves, it is often in their best interest to retain a professional to assist them in this complicated process. Employers and their insurers either have staff counsel or attorneys on retainer to address any claim.
It is a matter of leveling the playing field that an injured worker should seek an experienced lawyer to ensure their claim is handled appropriately and any documentation required is obtained.