What Every Worker Should Know
About Workers' Compensation
 

What is workers' compensation?

If you get hurt on the job, your employer is required by law to provide workers' compensation benefits. You could get hurt by:

  • One event at work. Examples: hurting your back in a fall, getting burned by chemicals that splash on your skin, getting hurt in a car accident while making deliveries, or
  • Repeated exposures at work. Examples: hurting your wrist from doing the same motion over and over, losing your hearing because of constant loud noises.

What are the benefits?

They can include:

    Medical Care. Paid for by your employer to help you recover from an injury or illness caused by work.

    Temporary Disability Benefits. Payments if you can't recover completely and will temporarily be somewhat limited in your ability to work.

    Permanent Disability Benefits. Payments if you can't recover completely and will always be somewhat limited in your ability to work.

    Vocational Rehabilitation. Job placement counseling and possibly retraining, if you are unable to return to your old job and your employer doesn't offer other work.

    Death Benefits. Payments to the spouse, children, or other dependents of a worker who dies from a job injury or illness.

Can I choose the doctor who will treat me?

It depends. If you want to choose the doctor who will treat you for a job injury or illness, you must tell your employer the name and address of your personal physician before you are injured. You must do it in writing. This is called predesignating your personal physician.

  • If you predesignate: You will be allowed to see your personal physician right after you are injured. You may switch doctors later, if necessary.
  • If you don't predesignate: Your employer usually will have the right to choose the doctor who treats you during the first 30 days after your employer learns about your injury or illness.

How do I predesignate?

You can predesignate a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathy (D.O.) who treated you in the past and has your medical records. Or you can predesignate the office, clinic, or hospital where the doctor treated you. (If you give your employer the name or your personal chiropractor in writing before you are injured, you may switch to this chiropractor upon request during the first 30 days.)

Notify your employer in writing. (Your employer may give you a form to use.) Make sure to include the following information:

  1. Name of your employer
  2. Statement that if you are hurt on the job, you designate your personal physician or personal physician's medical facility to provide medical care. Give the name, address, and phone number
  3. Your name
  4. Your signature
  5. Date

Exceptions: Some employers have contracts with state-certified health care organizations (HCOs) to treat workers hurt on the job. If your employer has this kind of contract, there are different rules on choosing medical care. Your employer must give you written information about those rules.

Why is the choice of doctor important?

Your treating doctor will:

  • Decide what type of medical care you'll get.
  • Help identify the kinds of work you can do safely while recovering.
  • Determine when you can return to work.
  • Write medical reports that will affect the benefits you receive.

What should I do if I get hurt on the job?

  • Report the injury to your employer
    Tell your supervisor right away. If your injury or illness developed gradually (like tendonitis or hearing loss), report it as soon as you learn it was caused by your job. Reporting promptly helps prevent problems and delays in receiving your benefits, including necessary medical care.
  • Report the injury to your union
  • Get emergency treatment if needed
    If it's a medical emergency, go to an emergency room right away. Your employer may tell you where to go for treatment. Tell the health care provider who treats you that your injury or illness is job-related.

How can I avoid getting hurt on the job?

It's best to prevent injuries before they happen. Employers are required to have an Injury and Illness Prevention Program. Learn about and participate in your employer's program. Report unsafe conditions to your employer and union. Or call Cal/OSHA, the state agency that enforces health and safety law.

How can I find out more about workers' compensation?

  • Talk to a supervisor or manager at work. Your employer is required to post information about workers' compensation and give you written materials.
  • Talk to your union rep, if you have one.
  • Contact a state Information & Assistance officer. I & A officers answer questions about workers' compensation. Call toll-free @ (800) 736-7401. For a local office, check the Government Pages of your phone book.

NOTES:

• Medical care must be paid for by your employer if you get hurt on the job-whether or not you miss time from work.

• You may be eligible to receive benefits even if you are a temporary or part-time worker.

• You may be covered by worker's compensation even if you are called an "independent contractor."

• You don't have to be a U.S. citizen to receive workers' compensation benefits.

• You receive benefits not matter who was at fault for your job injury.

• You can't sue your employer for a job injury (in most cases).

It's illegal for your employer to punish or fire you for having a job injury or for requesting workers' compensation benefits when hurt on the job.

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