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Financial Security: What to Do When You're Injured and Unable to Work

Unable to Work

November 28 2019 - In 2018, private employers reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses. Of these, 900,380 cases resulted in a worker missing at least one day of work.

As if that's not enough, OSHA thinks that only half of severe workplace injuries get reported. And the figures above don't even include non-work-related injuries or illnesses.

For a broader picture of unintentional injuries, CDC says there were 39.5 million cases of them in 2016.

If you find yourself in such a situation, you're likely worrying because you're unable to work. You're wondering if you'll still get paid or who'll even pay for your hospital bills.

We're here to quell your anxieties, so keep reading to learn what you can do if you get injured and need to miss work.

If You’re Unable to Work Due to a Work-Related Injury

Workers' compensation provides cash and medical benefits to employees injured on the job. Almost all workers in the US -- 138 million of them, to be precise -- has this coverage. All states, except for Texas, require employers to provide workers' comp system.

Unless you don't have workers' comp, you should receive benefits for an injury on the job. These are injuries that should have occurred while you're doing anything work-related. So long as they arise from doing something on behalf of your employer, workers' comp should cover them.

Workers' comp also replaces a part of your lost wages if you're unable to work due to injury. This benefit is in addition to the full medical coverage you should get, such as for hospital bills.

To receive workers' comp benefits though, you need to report your injury to your boss right away. Depending on state regulations, this can be anywhere from three to thirty days.

In South Dakota, for example, you only have three days (from the time you get injured). Whereas Georgia gives employees thirty days to report their work-related injuries.

If Your Injury Occurred Outside of the Workplace or During Breaks

A lot of employees who get injured outside of work don't know what to do and are on the fence of filing a worker's comp claim. There are some cases wherein injuries "outside of work" are still related to the job.

An example is an accident that occurred during a company gathering or social event. Since it's employer-hosted, workers' comp may still cover the injuries to attending workers.

Another is when you’ve had an accident during lunch break within your workplace’s premises. For instance, you slipped and fell due to a spilled beverage on the cafeteria floor. This may still be a legitimate ground for a workers' compensation claim.

Note that some employers are easy to deny these types of workers’ comp claims though. In fact, in 2017, there was a 7% denial rate of workers’ comp claims. If your employer denies your claim, consider hiring a workplace accident attorney.

Use Your Sick Leaves

Paid sick leaves aren't a federal requirement in the US. Still, half of US employers provide between five and nine days of paid leave a year for regular workers. 25% provide fewer than five, while the rest provide more than 10 days.

Also, there are some states and localities that have their own sick leave laws. 11 states, including California and Vermont, mandate employers to offer paid sick leaves.

That said, check with your boss if you do have paid sick leaves and how many days you have. Depending on the extent of your injury, you may be able to use all of them. This way, you can still get paid your normal salary even if you can't go to work.

Ask Your Employer about Short-Term Disability Coverage

In 2018, 42% of private industry workers had short-term disability insurance plans. A quarter of state and local government employees also had this type of coverage.

If your employer offers this as part of your employment benefits, you can use it if you get injured and can't go to work. Best of all, it covers injuries and illnesses that aren't work-related. Meaning, if you suffer an injury during your day-off, then you're likely to receive benefits.

Note though that short-term disability insurance only replaces a part of your income. How much depends on what type of insurance plan your employer purchased. The number of days covered also depends on the coverage, but it often covers several weeks to months.

If a Third Party is Behind Your Injury

If someone else is responsible for your injury, you may be able to sue that person. You can file a personal injury lawsuit against the at-fault party. In this case, your injury doesn't have to be work-related nor does it have to be permanent.

For example, you were out driving on your day off and a drowsy driver crashes onto your car. Such incidents are common, with drowsy driving linked to more than 100,000 crashes every year. If you're 100% certain that the other driver is at fault, you can bring a lawsuit against them.

Another example is if your injury resulted from defective equipment you use at work. Personal injury laws protect consumers against defective products. In this case, you can sue the product manufacturer for damages you sustain.

In most cases, manufacturers would have to pay for a worker's lost wages and medical bills. However, compensation can also include pain and suffering.

Know Your Rights If You Get Injured and Can't Go to Work

There you have it, your ultimate guide on what to do if you're unable to work due to an injury. You have rights, one of which is to file a workers' comp claim if you get injured at work. If it's outside of work and someone else is at fault, consider a personal injury claim.

What's important is to report your accident to your employer right away. Especially if the injury happened at work, as waiting too long may invalidate your claim.

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