Medical Issues and Workplace Injuries

The most important issue in any workplace accident or illness is the health and well-being of those that have been hurt or injured.  That means the most important thing is to get treatment for any immediate or life-threatening conditions and then take steps to find the right doctor or specialist who can correctly diagnose and treat your condition. Remember that you must check with your employer and seek treatment only from an authorized medical provider in all cases except an emergency situation.  This is important because your employer may have a list of specific doctors that you must go to.  Make the doctor aware of any medical history or pre-existing condition.  This could help your doctor determine whether your workplace aggravated your condition or caused your injury. 

Remember to cooperate with all the doctors and give them as much information about how the accident happened and how you are feeling.  If you do not inform your doctor of your pain and symptoms, the doctor may misdiagnose your injury or illness and that could hurt your chances of fully recovering and this also may delay your receipt of monetary compensation from your employer.  Also, as a result, you will not receive the medical treatment that is needed.  This can cause further damage to your health, and possibly delay your ability to return to work IF you can return to work at all. 

Therefore, be honest and upfront with your doctor.  Do not be afraid of losing your job.  If your employer fires you due to your filing of a workers compensation claim, you have a right to claim wrongful discharge.  Right now, the most important thing is to focus on your health and to get better.  If you minimize your pain, you may not receive all of the benefits you are entitled to from your employer.  Your ability to return to work after a workplace accident or illness will depend upon how serious your injury or illness is. 

If you cannot return to work, contact your supervisor as soon as possible.  Your supervisor might want to verify your condition with your doctor so it is important that you attend all of your scheduled medical appointments.  If you fail to do this, your employer might think your injury or illness is not that serious.  If it is determined that your accident occurred during your workplace duties, you will need information about workers compensation insurance and other legal issues.  If you have legal questions, you should contact a lawyer who is experienced in this area of law.  They can help you with all the paperwork and talk to your doctor and employer to help establish evidence while you focus on getting better.

Even if you think that your injury is not serious, you should still seek medical attention.  It is quite possible that you are injured but you may not even know it.  Sometimes there are less obvious injuries that occur, which are more difficult to recognize or feel.  After an accident, you are typically in shock of what just happened and may not recognize the pain.  Many injuries go unnoticed by employees injured on the job.  It is extremely important to seek medical attention, even if you do not notice immediate pain or obvious injuries.  A thorough examination of your injuries by a doctor is a crucial part of any workers compensation claim and will be necessary for you to recover the benefits that you may well be entitled to. 

Depending upon the seriousness of the injury, your doctor may recommend to the employer that you return to work in a restricted capacity.  Your job may allow you to return to your regular work duties with some modifications, different tasks in another department, or part time work.  Your doctor should provide a list of medical restrictions to your employer that they must follow when having you return back to work.  Your condition needs to be re-evaluated at each doctor visit and it will be determined whether you are able to continue working under the current restrictions.  If your employer does have a place for you in the workplace within your medical restrictions, you need to accept the offer or you may lose your right to disability benefits.  Remember to let your employer know if there are any problems with your new work assignment.

Do not be afraid to seek medical attention for your workplace injury or illness.  Your employer cannot discriminate against you for notifying them of your workplace injury or for making it known that you are filing a workers compensation claim.  The most important thing during this time is taking care of yourself and your health.  During this time, you have to focus on your recovery and getting better.  You do not want to further injure yourself by performing strenuous activities too soon after being involved in a workplace accident.  You can aggravate your injuries even further which can permanently disable you and then you will be unable to ever work again.

You also have to remember that you may have some psychological trauma after a workplace accident.  It is important to not try to overexert yourself too soon.  You may want to speak with someone who can help you sort out your emotions.  Sometimes when people lose their jobs, they lose their sense of dignity and self.  That could hamper your recovery.  You also may be unsure about what you want to accomplish in your work life after an accident.  It is important not to get overwhelmed when thinking about the future.  For example, an injured police officer was able to be retrained as a guidance counselor.  You can always do some vocational testing to help you think about what you may want to do in the future.   

Read the next article in the series:  Legal Issues and Workplace Injuries

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