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You were hurt at work and you know you can be compensated -- after all you pay into the workers' compensation insurance system. But you are unsure how to make a claim and what first steps to take.
The workers' compensation system is designed to be straightforward and easy to navigate but it can definitely help if you know some basics. So, let's look at the making a claim.
Was Your Injury Work Related?
Just in case the name of the system does not make it clear, the first thing you must know is that workers' compensation's only for work-related injuries. While you may be unable to work because you injured yourself skiing on vacation, you absolutely cannot seek compensation for an injury that does not stem from your employment.
Generally speaking you can be compensated for injuries that occur at work. But if you were doing something that violates company policy, or were impaired at the time of injury, you may risk denial of benefits although you have paid into the system.
Assuming your injury does stem from your work, the first thing you must do is let your employer know about it. If your injury developed slowly, let your employer know about it as soon as you suspect that it is was caused by your work.
Next, you file a claim. But the process is not the same in every state. The labor insurance system is administered by the individual states and each one has its own rules.
How to Find What You Need
Your state's Department of Labor website will have information about applicable workers' compensation laws. For example, in California the Department of Industrial Relations' Division of Workers' Compensation administers and monitors claims. The division has several different units and the website provides general information for workers and directs them to claim forms.
Remember that you only need to fill out the employee section of the form. Next, you give the meployer forms for completion. Once the employer has submitted the necessary forms for the claim, the state has a limited to review it and issue benefits or a denial (about 14 days in California).
Talk to a Lawyer
If your workers' compensation claim was denied or you are concerned that it might be, speak to a lawyer. You don't necessarily need an attorney to make a cliam, but having one can certainly help you more easily navigate the system.
Many workers' compensation attorneys consult for free or a minimal fee and will be happy to discuss your claim. Get guidance.