James works in the shipping department of a company that specializes in personalized gifts. The holiday season, from Thanksgiving to after the New Year, is the company’s busiest time of year making for long hours, an increased amount of seasonal help, and less working room in the shipping department. James, who has been a full-time employee for five years is a shift supervisor and is in charge of training in seasonal help. Due to shipping guidelines and specifications, boxes must be clearly marked with the proper item weight and dimensions. For an employee’s safety, handling rules are put in place for packages over certain weights, such as zero to ten pounds or packages exceeding ten pounds. When James was showing a seasonal employee how to scan a package into the system, he lifted a package that was mismarked (the label stated that the weight was 9 pounds, but the actual weight was 90) and injured his back. James immediately reported the work-related back injury to his supervisor, went to the emergency room, and was told by his physician that he was “out” for the rest of the holiday season. There is never a good time for work-related injuries, but James is feeling the financial pressure of the approaching holiday season, hoping he can afford his monthly along with his increased credit card spending.
Injured and Out of Work: What’s Next?
A work-related injury never occurs at a convenient time and the financial, physical, and emotional stress can be overwhelming. If you have been injured at work and forced to take time off, you’re not alone. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2012, in the private industry there were a total of 2,976,400 reported/recordable nonfatal injuries and illnesses, including 177,580 work-related back injuries. Fortunately, if you have been injured on the job you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Keep in mind, depending on where you live, your benefits may be different; each work-related injury claim is different.
In order to receive workers’ compensation you must have been injured on the job, reported the injury, and followed your workplace’s procedures (such as picking a physician from the Traditional Panel of Physicians). If you wait too long to report your injury, for example after 30 days, you may lose your chance of receiving benefits. You are covered by workers’ compensation from the first day of your job, but you are not able to receive benefits (or file for compensation) until you have missed at least 7 days of work, due to your injury.
Don’t Be Financially Ruined This Holiday
If you suffer a work-related injury right before the holidays, you might feel the financial strain of gift giving and other financial obligations, but workers’ compensation benefits should be able to help you stay “afloat” during your recovery time. Keep in mind that your compensation will not be the same amount or as much as a regular paycheck, but often times recipients receive a substantial portion of their regularly scheduled income (such as two thirds).
In order to receive workers’ compensation benefits, you must be assertive and active in filing your claim. If you are too injured or ill to file a claim on your own, ask a trusted family member or friend to help you. If your claim has been denied or is particularly complicated, find a legal representative who can guide you through the sometimes frustrating and confusing process.
You work hard all year long to provide for yourself and your family, especially during the holiday season. Don’t let a work-related injury prevent you from receiving monetary compensation for all of your hard and dedicated work. Will you say “no” to the holidays this year because of a work-related back injury or will you take the time to celebrate and surround yourself with people you love?