Do You Qualify for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
If you are injured at work you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. These include payment to you for time lost from work and well as payments for all medical expenses. However, to obtain these benefits, having an attorney on your side can be extremely helpful. A Washington, D.C. workers’ compensation attorney can provide that help.
Under workers’ compensation, can your own doctor treat your work-related injuries? What worker’s comp benefits can you receive? When should you contact a Washington, D.C. workers’ compensation lawyer? What else should you know about workers’ compensation?
If you’ll read this short discussion of workers’ compensation and your rights, you will find the answers you may need, and you will also learn some important details about your rights if you become an injured worker in the Washington, D.C. area.
What Are an Injured Employee’s Rights?
All employers in the District of Columbia are required to carry workers’ comp insurance.
If an employee suffers a job-related illness or injury, that employee has the absolute right to file a claim with the D.C. Government for workers’ compensation benefits and to receive payment from his or her employer’s insurance company for:
- reasonable and necessary medical expenses;
- time lost from work;
- and, potentially, other benefits including but not limited to, permanent disability and vocational rehabilitation.
Injured at Work? What Steps Should You Take?
To receive workers’ compensation benefits after a job-related injury, you are required to submit DCWC Forms 7, “Employee’s Notice of Accidental Injury or Occupational Disease,” and 7A “Employee’s Notice of Claim: to your employer and to the D.C. Office of Workers’ Compensation within thirty days of your injury.
The filing process may not seem difficult, but you should reach out to a workers’ compensation attorney – even before you file for benefits – to ensure that your filing is accurate and complete, that your rights are protected, and that you receive the full benefits that you’re entitled to by law.
When a Washington, D.C. workers’ compensation attorney handles your claim, you can focus fully on regaining your health, but with a thirty-day filing deadline you should reach out to an attorney as soon as possible after you are injured.
Can You Choose Your Own Doctor?
Unlike workers’ compensation in many states, in the District of Columbia you are allowed to choose your own doctor. If you’re incapacitated or unconscious and your employer sends you to another doctor or an emergency room, you may still choose your own doctor upon your release.
However, once you have selected a physician and have started treatment, you cannot simply choose a new doctor. You must first seek either the consent of the insurance or apply to the Office of Workers’ Compensation to obtain permission.
If there is any dispute or difficulty regarding your choice of a physician, your Washington, D.C. workers’ compensation lawyer will ensure that your rights are honored and that you are allowed to see the doctor of your choice.
What if Your Employer Retaliates?
Filing a worker’s compensation claim in the District of Columbia does not automatically mean that your employer must hold your job until your return or that you cannot be terminated. However, if you are terminated simply for filing a claim (and you can prove this) you may be entitled to additional benefits.
Your attorney would be the best individual to assess such a claim and to make sure your rights are fully protected.
What Benefits Does Workers’ Compensation Provide?
The Workers’ Compensation Act in the District of Columbia requires your employer (or your employer’s insurance company) to pay for reasonable and necessary medical treatment for your work illness or injury.
Additionally, you may also be entitled to payment while you are disabled and recovering from your injury (temporary total disability benefits). After you are released from active care, you may also be entitled for additional benefits including vocational rehabilitation and payment for permanent injury. Your attorney can more fully explain what potential benefits may be available to you depending on the circumstances of your particular case.
Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits partially replace lost wages for employees who expect to return to work after recovering from a job-related injury. TTD payments are for two-thirds of your average weekly wage, although there is a cap on the maximum amount of benefits.
TTD benefits may last for 500 weeks or terminate when your physician concludes that you have reached “maximum medical improvement,” meaning that your medical condition is not likely to improve further, and you are cleared to return to your job without any restrictions.
What Are Permanent and Temporary Partial Disability Benefits?
Temporary partial disability benefits may be paid when a claimant is able to return to employment other than his or her pre-injury job, if this new position pays less the worker’s pre-injury salary.
If your injury resulted in a disability that your doctor says is “partial, but permanent,” you may receive permanent partial disability payments after you have reached maximum medical improvement. The amount of those payments depends on the nature and extent of your disability.
What if Your Worker’s Compensation Claim is Denied?
Below are listed some of the reasons why your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company might deny your claim for workers’ compensation benefits:
- You didn’t immediately report your injury.
- Your report does not match what your medical records indicate.
- Your medical exam indicated that you were using illegal drugs when you were injured and these were the sole cause of your injury.
- Your injury did not arise out of or in the course of your employment.
As mentioned previously, the smart move is to obtain the advice and services of a District of Columbia workers’ compensation attorney as soon as you realize that you have been injured at work.
How Will an Attorney Help You?
Your attorney will make sure that your application is complete, accurate, and meets the legal deadline. If you do not have an attorney’s help when you file for workers’ comp benefits, and if your claim is denied, ask a workers’ compensation lawyer to appeal that denial on your behalf.
Even if you are approved for benefits, a workers’ comp insurance company may try to pay you less than you are entitled to by law – unless that insurance company knows that you are working with a lawyer who will protect your rights and fight for your full and complete benefits.
After you sustain a workplace injury, there are two immediate priorities. Seek or summon medical help first, and then get the legal help you need by contacting a workers’ compensation attorney as quickly as possible.