For most injured workers, the Workers’ Compensation process can be frustrating and extremely confusing. Learning the basics, though, can help an injured worker to proceed through the process much more smoothly.
It is important that the injured worker notify the employer immediately. The employer then provides first aid, if needed, and sends the injured worker to a doctor. Some employers have what is called a “preferred provider program.” The injured worker is only allowed two choices in medical providers. If the employee declines the preferred provider program, it still counts as one of two possible medical providers. If the injured worker wants to switch doctors after the first two providers have been exhausted, he or she must petition the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Temporary Total Disability (TTD):
If the employer does not delay or deny the injured worker’s claim, it is required to pay that worker temporary total disability (TTD) benefits. This benefit is two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage. An injured worker will not receive TTD if he or she returns to work one to three days after the date of injury.
Temporary Partial Disability (TPD):
An injured worker may be able to work but is still unable to work at the same job. The employer may allow the worker to engage in light duty on a full-time or part-time basis. In this scenario, the employee may be eligible for temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits. TPD is designed to pay the difference between the employee’s average weekly wage before the injury and the wage that the employee is being paid during the light-duty period.
Vocational Rehabilitation Services and Benefits:
An important benefit of the Workers’ Compensation process is vocational rehabilitation. If an employee is unable to return to his or her job after an industrial injury, the Workers’ Compensation process provides vocational rehabilitation and maintenance benefits. The employee either picks from the employer’s recommendation or another vocational rehabilitation service. The vocational rehabilitation service provides job searches, retraining and counseling relative to finding a job that is compatible with the worker’s permanent disability.
Permanent Disability (PD):
Permanent disability is determined by the worker’s final medical reports. If the injured worker has permanent disability, the employer’s insurance company will pay the worker monthly permanent disability (PD). Once the total amount of benefits are paid out, the PD stops.
Litigating a Workers’ Compensation Case:
An injured worker can file an Application to Adjust Claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Every three months the case will come up for a status check with a judge. The main reasons that injured workers file Applications with the Commission are delayed or denied benefits, inadequate medical care, and inadequate permanent disability benefits.
When to Get an Attorney:
If the employer is denying benefits or delaying them, an injured worker can retain an attorney to represent him or her before defense attorneys and other adversarial parties in the Workers’ Compensation claim.