Under Maryland law, workers’ compensation is designed to be a self-executing system for the delivery of needed benefits to the injured worker. Sadly, this is, too often, not the case. The fact that Maryland must have a Workers’ Compensation Commission to decide disputes between injured workers and their employer’s insurance company over contested or denied benefits-and that those injured at work frequently prevail in these claims-is perhaps all the evidence that is needed to demonstrate that benefits are not always delivered in a timely, self-executing, fashion. There are a variety of factors that can delay or prevent the prompt provision of workers’ compensation benefits and affirmative steps the worker the injured worker may take to avoid these common mishaps.
If hurt on the job, you must immediately report your injury to your immediate supervisor and request medical care. If the nature of the accident and resulting injury permits, immediately notify your supervisor of what has happened. If you are unfamiliar with your immediate supervisor, record the name of the individual in the chain of command to whom you reported your incident.
You should request that you be provided with appropriate workers’ compensation reporting paperwork, and request that the employer complete their mandatory paperwork.
If the person to whom you report is unfamiliar with this process, you should request that you be directed to the appropriate person or department to assist you in filling out claim forms and taking a report of your incident. You must also immediately request medical care and attendance and promptly report to the physician, clinic, or emergency room where you are directed by your employer. If your employer does not immediately provide medical care, you should promptly obtain medical care utilizing your own resources. The workers’ compensation commission will later determine if any such expenses are the responsibilities of the employer and the insurance carrier. You additionally should, of course, be fully compliant with each and every directive of your medical providers. This does not mean you have to do undergo every procedure that a doctor recommends. For example, if a physician recommends surgery, and you don't want to have that surgery you may decline surgery. On the other end of the spectrum, if the doctor's advice is to attend therapy 3 times a week, you should go to physical therapy 3 times a week, not once a week, or 3 times every other week.
You must make your employer immediately aware of any work restrictions that you have been given. At every medical appointment, if a physician has not addressed your work status, you must inquire as to what your work status is. Work status is the answer to the question: “what is your current ability to work in light of your injury?” Your work status will likely fall into one of three categories.
- You are able to work full duty despite your injury.
- You are unable to work at all because of your injury.
- The middle ground is a situation in which you are able to work but, you have restrictions or limitations on your abilities. This is frequently referred to as a light duty status.
When a physician has placed limitations on your activity level, you must immediately notify your employer of these restrictions, and of your ability and willingness to report for work within the limitations imposed by your doctor.
If you have a workplace injury that has caused you to miss time, or requires treatment beyond a one-time visit to an urgent care clinic, I would suggest that you consult with a seasoned workers’ compensation attorney.
Although benefits are supposed to be delivered in a self-executing fashion, as noted, this is often not the case.
An experienced attorney can provide valuable guidance in advising you of classes of benefits to which you may be entitled, but were unaware. Moreover, a seasoned attorney can evaluate the factual circumstances up your accident and determine if there are any ancillary or auxiliary claims in addition to the worker’s compensation claim.