It might surprise you to learn that there are nearly 3 million on-the-job accidents each year, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The state of Washington alone reports 4.7 cases per 100 workers every year.
This is why fully understanding your workers’ compensation rights is so critical. You need to know what to expect should you get hurt while performing the duties required by your employer. Consider seven workers’ comp rights you need to know if you work in Washington.
1. Your Payroll Deduction Helps Pay for Your Benefits
If you are injured, workers’ comp pays your medical expenses and lost wages, and in cases of serious injury may also provide vocational retraining, a permanent disability award or even a life-long Pension. That is what you are contributing to with each payroll deduction, but how much can an employer take? In most cases, it depends on how the business is set up.
An employer who plans to hire workers in Washington is required to open an L&I account. This is the agency that manages the claims and pays the benefits from the Washington State Fund. The fund is fully financed by premiums. An employer using this system can take up to half of the cost of the premiums from your pay to cover benefit funds that cover:
- Medical benefits
- Light duty and transitional employment expenses
- Cost-of-living increases for pensions
Your employer pays the full premium for lost wages and permanent disability.
You are thus contributing to the cost of coverage and have an absolute right under the law to receive appropriate benefits!
2. You Can Choose Which Doctor You See.
Phyicians must be part of the approved network of medical providers, but you are allowed to select any of those providers you wish. Most physicians (but not all) are authorized providers. If you are injured at work, you can usually go to the emergency room or your own physician and be confident they will be an authorized provider. The first physician you see is required to file the Worker’s Compensation claim application for you, so be sure to tell them you were hurt on the job!
Once you have filed your claim, all the related medical bills, including approved medications, will be paid for.
3. You’re entitled to Compensation for Lost Wages (“Time Loss”).
If you miss more than 3 days of work, you will receive compensation for lost wages. However, your physician must certify in writing that you are unable to work.
The compensation rate is not 100%. The time-loss rates are from 60 to 70 percent of your gross pay, including the value of your work benefits like health insurance. The percentage is based on whether you are married and how many children you have. This percentage is better than it sounds, as there are no payroll deductions for taxes or employee benefits from the time loss paid as part of your claim.
4. You May Receive Reimbursement for Travel Related to Your Medical Appointments
When it is necessary that you travel further than 15 miles to get medical treatment, you may be entitled to reimbursement for your travel expense. Travel reimbursement covers
- Mileage in excess of 15 miloes one-way
The rules for travel reimbursement eligibility include:
- You must travel more than 15 miles one way to see a provider.
- There can be no closer provider available to you.
- The travel reimbursement must be preauthorized by the claim manager.
5. If your Personal Property is Damaged in a Work Accident You’re Entitled to Property Reimbursement.
Property reimbursement covers your personal items damaged during the job-related accident. Examples include:
- Personal protective equipment
6. You Must be Compensated for Permanent Disability
Permanent Partial Disability refers to an injury that impairs you in some way, even though you can still work. If you suffer a permanent impairment, the extent of your injury must be “rated” by a physician. This rating will determine the amount of your impairment.
Permanent Total Disability, on the other hand, means that your injuries have made you permanently unable to work. In this case, you are entitled to receive monthly payments for the rest of your life (and also the life of your surviving spouse if you so elect). The amount of the payment is similar to what you would receive for Time Loss payments.
7. Retraining for a New Job
If you are physically able to work, but your injuries restrict you from performing your normal occupation or any other occupation for which you have prior experience or training, you usually will qualify for vocational retraining. A Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor will be assigned to help you develop a retraining plan. Typically this will involve training at a vocational or technical school, but sometimes on-the-job training is utilized. The training plan can last up to two years. You will be paid Time Loss during the entire time you are successfully participating in retraining.
Workers’ Compensation benefits are essential to help injured workers recover and become productive again. However, the system is complex, and at times does not proceed fairly. Benefits are often denied inappropriately. Often workers do not realize they are not being paid all the benefits they ar entitled to receive. Understanding your rights is the first step to getting what is due to you. You have a right to obtain legal counsel to assist you with your claim, so you should always seek a free initial consulation if you have sustained a significant work injury! Contact us at Lehmbecker Law to help you with your case.