The New Jersey workers’ compensation law is over 100 years old. Yet, questions about workers’ compensation continue to be asked. Workers’ compensation involves three groups: the employer, the employee, and the insurance company providing the coverage. This three-headed entity has to function effectively for workers’ compensation to be a successful program. Employees who have work injuries and occupational diseases qualify for medical treatment and other benefits.
A frequent question about workers’ compensation coverage concerns if an injured employee can choose the treating doctor. A seasoned workers’ compensation lawyer can provide important information for employees and employers to reduce any tension about who selects the treating doctor.
What Should Employees Know About Workers’ Compensation?
One of the main concerns is whether the employee has been treated fairly. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system providing universal coverage. The principle of universal coverage is a trade-off. The worker receives medical benefits and other assistance in exchange for the employee not suing the employer.
In New Jersey, businesses with employees must have workers’ compensation insurance or approval to be self-insured. This includes out-of-state businesses with New Jersey employees. Companies operating under federal programs may be subject to other requirements. Most businesses must and do have workers’ compensation insurance.
Even if an injured employee normally cannot choose their treating doctor, there are other things the employee should know. The following list contains important information for injured workers.
Always Get Medical Treatment
Workers should get medical treatment after any workplace injury, even a minor one. Treatment should be sought immediately after a workplace accident or after experiencing a symptom that might be related to work or to toxic exposure in the workplace.
If the employee can wait to see a doctor until contacting the employer, the worker should ask if the employer or its workers’ compensation insurance company will provide special authorization to see an outside doctor. Getting this special authorization to see a specific doctor is not always an option, but it is worth inquiring about.
In the unlikely situation the employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance or fails to provide the necessary care, the employee can see their own doctor and be reimbursed for the costs of the doctor’s care. The worker must contact a lawyer to verify the lack of insurance.
If the employee needs emergency medical treatment or gets it after speaking the employer, it is important to remember that prompt treatment leads to a faster recovery. Also, the sooner the medical treatment, the lesser the potential for a later question that the injury was not work related. This is especially true for repetitive motion injuries or exposure to toxic substances.
No matter where the workplace related injury happens, if this is a true medical emergency, the injured employee should seek immediate medical treatment at a hospital or emergency room or a suitable walk-in clinic.
Injuries May Not be Apparent
The most common workplace injuries are sprains, strains, material handling injuries, and similar trauma. However, what may seem to be a sprained arm or leg at first can be a broken bone. If the worker is still in pain, they should see a doctor to check if anything is broken and has to be treated.
If emergency medical treatment is sought, the employer should be contacted quickly and be informed of all the facts about the injury and any emergency medical care. Sooner is better for the outcome of a workers’ compensation claim. If the event is not an emergency, the employee should follow the employer’s rules and guidelines about seeing a doctor to treat a workplace injury.
Repetitive motion injuries, such as tendinitis and bursitis, can take months to reach a point at which treatment is required. If the injury is no longer tolerable, the employee may have to seek emergency medical treatment. In these situations, the worker should speak with a lawyer.
List of Medical Providers
Under workers’ compensation, the employer and the insurance company usually have a list of medical providers for injured employees, which includes specialists. If the worker wants to see a certain doctor who is not on the pre-approved list, they will probably need to pay the cost of non-emergency medical treatment.
Not every workplace injury qualifies for workers’ compensation coverage. If the accident or injury is a result of self-intoxication with alcohol or drugs, or self-inflicted or a result of an altercation, the employee may not be covered. If a worker finds themselves in this situation, they should contact a lawyer for a consultation.
In a true medical emergency, an injured worker should immediately go to the hospital or a local doctor. The worker’s health matters most. Later, if there is a question if the injury required emergency medical attention, an experienced lawyer can examine a worker’s particular situation and their workers’ compensation claim.
How can Employers Help Injured Workers?
Under workers’ compensation, the employer is responsible for furnishing medical treatment to cure or relieve the injury to enable the employee to return to work. This is part of the social contract embodied in the workers’ compensation law and regulations. Having workers’ compensation insurance is a general rule in New Jersey.
Unless the employer’s actions constitute an intentional risk to the employee, the employee’s remedies for workplace injuries are governed by the workers’ compensation law and the mandated insurance workers’ compensation policy the employer has provided. There are some ways employers can inform their employees about the workers’ compensation process and their benefits.
The employer should post or circulate all the information about the workers’ compensation insurance for the workplace. This includes a list of doctors, including specialists, for the injured workers to see, as well as telephone numbers and email addresses for employees to reach out to the insurance company for more information.
Easy Access to Human Resources
Most employers have Human Resources (HR) persons or departments, and the HR department should be accessible for injured employees to notify the employer/insurance carrier of the workplace injury and to file and process a workers’ compensation claim. HR should have hand-outs and information readily available for this purpose. The more information the employer provides and has on hand, the better the chance the employees will understand and cooperate in the workers’ compensation relationship.
Risk Management Program
Maintaining a good risk management program to prevent workplace injuries can reduce workplace injuries and reduce the costs to the employer. The mandated workers’ compensation insurance cost can be reduced through effective risk management and reduction in the risk that employees will be injured or sick in the workplace.
Safety Protocols and Training
The development of and implementation of workplace safety protocols along with appropriate workers safety training will also reduce the risk of workplace injuries. Preventing workplace injuries is the wisest choice.
If an injured employee needs help recovering compensation after a workplace accident, they should speak to a lawyer. A lawyer will explain related rights and help them obtain benefits for financial losses, such as medical bills.
Cherry Hill Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP Protect the Rights of Injured Workers
Administering workers’ compensation provisions does not have to be adversarial. Sometimes, having your own lawyer can open a path of communication between you, your employer, and the insurance company. The Cherry Hill workers’ compensation lawyers at Pietras Saracino Smith & Meeks, LLP are available to help defuse any problems. Workers’ compensation is the focus of our firm. We fight for compensation for injured employees. Call us today at 856-761-3773 or contact us online to schedule a free consultation. Located in Cherry Hill, New Jersey, we serve clients in Camden, Cinnaminson, Delran, Maple Shade, Pennsauken, and throughout South Jersey.