Atticus offers free, high-quality workers' compensation advice to those injured at work. Our team of Stanford and Harvard trained lawyers has a combined 15+ years of legal experience, and help thousands of Americans get the benefits they deserve each year.
When you get sick or injured at work, notify your employer and make sure to get all necessary medical care. If your injury keeps you out of work, you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits — coverage for healthcare costs and weekly payments to make up for lost wages. But to get this assistance, it’s important to act quickly and take the proper steps.
If you get injured at work, there are three main steps you should take:
Find the highest-level person at your work who you have contact with — your boss, manager, supervisor, etc. — and tell them you were injured on the job. Ideally you notify them with a written document so you have a record of when you told them.
If your injury is serious enough that you need to miss work while you recover, you may qualify for workers’ comp, but only if you’ve notified your employer of your injury. In some states you only have a few days after the date of the injury to notify your employer. Failing to do so could mean you can’t get the workers’ comp benefits you deserve.
In the event of a medical emergency, getting proper care should be your first priority. (Because of the Affordable Care Act, health insurance plans are required to cover essential emergency services.)
If possible, notify your employer about your injury or illness and then get the medical care you need. Your employer may refer you to a doctor who’s in their insurance’s network and who handles work injury cases.
States also have different rules about the doctors you can see under workers’ comp coverage. For example, Massachusetts workers’ comp rules require you to see a doctor in your employer’s insurance’s network for the first visit.
You may be eligible for workers’ compensation in your state if you get injured at work, need to miss time to recover, and you notify your employer soon enough. Workers’ comp will pay you weekly benefits to cover any wages you lose because your injury keeps you out of work. Your employer’s insurance will also cover all necessary medical care as you recover from your injury.
Learn more in our complete guide to workers’ compensation.
Tell your employer about your injury or illness using a written statement as soon as possible. Write an email or a dated letter that says when you were injured and how the injury happened.
Follow up with your employer to make sure they received your notice and keep a copy for your records. As you go through the workers' comp process, a paper trail will help you get the benefits you deserve. For example, if your employer claims you never notified them of an injury, you’ll have clear proof that you did.
Even if you already told your employer in person or over the phone about your injury, you should also give them a written notification.
If you only notify your employer verbally and then they challenge your workers’ comp claim by saying you didn’t notify them in enough time to qualify, you’ll have a hard time getting benefits.
Most states put a time limit on when you can report your injury, so move quickly. To qualify for workers’ comp in California, for example, you must notify your employer within 30 days of your incident. In other states, like Colorado, you only have four days.
If you need immediate emergency care for your injury, try to notify a higher-up of your injury or ask someone else to tell them on your behalf before you leave the workplace.
In most states, full-time and part-time employees are eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits, but every state has its own laws. Some states also allow seasonal workers to receive benefits.
Independent contractors usually can’t get workers’ comp. If you aren’t sure whether you qualify as an independent contractor, check your taxes to see if your employer withholds taxes from your paycheck. Your employer withholding taxes is one good sign you aren’t actually an independent contractor.
Certain states also have unique qualifications for independent contractors. For example, New York workers’ comp rules include different criteria for independent contractors in transportation and construction than they do for other industries.
Any injury or illness that happens as a result of fulfilling your job duties or doing work-related activities counts as a work injury. It doesn’t matter whose fault the injury was, though certain circumstances — like being drunk on the job — could leave you ineligible.
Some work injuries that can qualify for workers’ comp include
It is illegal for your employer to fire you because you filed a workers' comp claim. Your employer also can’t retaliate against you — like by decreasing your hours or cutting your pay. If your employer fires you for filing a claim, you have the right to sue them. An employment lawyer can help you with this type of case.
If you can’t go back to work because of your injury and your employer won’t pay you during the missed time, you can get workers' comp payments to cover the lost wages. File your workers’ comp claim as soon as possible to get wage coverage.
Workers’ compensation in most states is worth two-thirds of the average weekly pay you received at the time of your injury.
The exact amount you receive varies by state. States generally set minimum or maximum payment amounts. It’s also common for states to pay based on the type of injury you have and the severity of your injury. How long your injury requires you to miss work also makes a difference. Short-term and long-term workers’ comp payments aren’t always the same amount.
Another major benefit of workers’ comp is that it covers medical expenses as you recover from your injury or illness, including appointment copays, medical procedures, prescription medications, medical aids or devices, and mileage for travel to appointments.
You can only qualify for workers’ comp if your injury prevents you from being able to do your full job duties or work your full hours. In some cases, if your injury prevents you from doing all the job activities you used to do, you may be able to go back to work in a reduced role and still get workers’ comp benefits.
Not all jobs offer reduced roles and going back to full work duties before you’ve completely recovered will mean losing benefits. If you have a second job, you may also need to stop performing duties for that job to qualify for wage benefits.
To understand if you could work without losing benefits, the best option is to talk with a workers’ comp lawyer.
If you have any questions or issues with your claim, a local workers’ comp lawyer can help you. They’ll know how to guide you through every stage of the claim process, from filing to doctor visits to receiving long-term payments.
Here are a few more situations a lawyer could help you with:
Not sure if you should hire a lawyer? Let Atticus help you. Take our quick workers’ comp quiz and we can connect you with an experienced lawyer for free.
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