Healthcare work injuries are among the most common in the U.S. for all workers. These include, but are not limited to, needle-stick injuries, latex allergies, broken bones, back injuries, violence from patients and stress. All healthcare workers should ensure that they understand their rights in the event that they sustain a work-related injury at some point during their employment.
What Injured Workers are Entitled to:
Healthcare work injuries are treated the same as injuries in other employment settings. Injured workers are entitled to medical care, disability benefits and vocational rehabilitation if they are not able to return to their pre-injury job.
Reporting the Injury:
The injured healthcare worker should report the injury to the employer as soon after the injury as possible. The employer is then required to immediately notify their Workers’ Compensation carrier of the injury. Then the carrier begins payments of temporary partial disability (TPD) or temporary total disability (TTD) to the injured worker.
TPD and TTD Explained:
TPD is paid for either light duty or less hours worked during the injured worker’s period of recovery. It is two-thirds of the difference between the worker’s pre-injury salary and the gross salary of light duty. TTD is paid at two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage.
An injured worker is given medical care at no charge by either a doctor from the employer’s preferred provider plan or from another doctor of the employer’s designation. The injured worker can change doctors one time only. If an injured worker is dissatisfied with the second physician, he or she must litigate the matter with the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Litigating a Workers’ Compensation Case:
This is the point where most injured healthcare workers will hire a Workers’ Compensation attorney. The attorney will then file an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Once the case number is assigned, the attorney can then request a hearing for the issue in dispute. A Workers’ Compensation judge will make a final determination on the issue in dispute.
Why Retain a Workers’ Compensation Attorney:
The injured worker can engage in the same legal process that the attorney does. However, Workers’ Compensation is a complicated process, and most injured workers end up hiring an attorney when they are no longer secure in handling their own cases.
Moving the Case Forward:
The judge holds a status hearing every three months to ensure that the case is moving forward. After three years, however, if the case is still active, the judge will require the parties to provide good reason for the case not settling within the three-year period.
Occasionally the pre-injury employer will offer the injured worker another job that will accommodate his or her permanent disability. If there is no alternate position available with the pre-injury employer, the employer must offer the injured worker vocational rehabilitation. These services include job counseling, placement, retraining and maintenance benefits prior to finding a job. The maintenance benefits are usually in the same range as TTD benefits.