November 14, 2011
By David Klein
Rumbling rides along uneven streets. Lurches and jolts over potholes. The pressure of your foot pushing on the brake, hour after hour.
It all takes a toll…
If you are one of the men and women who operate buses, subways or trucks, then your job can cause you serious medical problems over time. It is possible to develop disabling conditions, even when there is no particular accident you can point to. You need to be aware of your rights on the job. Although an employer and his insurance company may try to tell you otherwise, if you develop a medical condition because of your job, you are entitled to file for workers’ compensation benefits.
The following is a brief checklist of hot-button issues for you to keep in mind if your body is breaking down as the result of your employment, and if you haven’t had an actual accident:
1. DO NOT SELF-TREAT; see a doctor right away if you have pain that lasts more than a few days. Chronic pain might be a symptom of a serious medical condition that might get worse if not properly treated. Also, the more time that passes without any medical documentation, the weaker your case becomes for workers’ compensation – and an insurance company may use this against you later.
2. TELL YOUR DOCTOR(s) HOW YOUR WORK RELATES TO YOUR PAIN on the first day of treatment. Only a doctor can say definitively if there is a connection. Also, ask your doctor to make note of your occupational activities, so that when he files with the Workers’ Compensation Board and insurance company there is a proper history of the how your work has affected your condition — vital evidence in your case.
3. TELL YOUR DOCTOR OF ANY PRE-EXISTING ACCIDENTS OR SYMPTOMS so that he can evaluate these as well. If you file a Workers’ Compensation claim getting this information out early will help to speed the process.
4. DECIDE WHETHER TO STOP WORKING or to keep working. Workers’ Compensation law is devised so that you may work, or leave work if disabled, or work on and off, as your symptoms require. However, to protect your job, your seniority and your benefits, it is vital that you discuss leaving work with your doctor and with your union representative or shop steward.
5. KNOW YOUR DOCTOR AND LAWYER CAN FIGHT FOR TREATMENT beyond the time limit. Currently Workers’ Compensation will only cover a certain amount of medical treatment for back, neck, knee, and shoulder injuries. However, there is a system in place at the Board where your doctor can appeal to extend your treatment. If your doctor is not aware of the process he should call the Board at once. Or, if an attorney represents you, your doctor can contact the attorney to learn how to petition the Board for treatment beyond the usual limit.
6. NOTIFY YOUR EMPLOYER OF YOUR MEDICAL CONDITION as soon as you know you have symptoms related to your employment. Be sure to carefully explain how your job affected your injury. You should also coordinate this notice with your union representative or shop steward.
Your workers’ compensation case will be given a category such as “occupational,” or “cumulative trauma” or “accidental injury.” Remember that if you take the simple steps above, the legal category of your workers’ compensation case should have little impact on your right to wage-replacement benefits. The same holds true for medical treatment and testing or even in certain cases a lump sum award for your injury.
If you have any questions about this pamphlet or about any aspect of Workers’ Compensation, Social Security Disability, or Personal Injury law, please don’t hesitate to give me a call at 1-800-579-8881.
The Klein Law Group, P.C., offers free consultations to discuss your rights and review your case. Contact us at www.thekleinlawgroup.com to arrange a consultation with one of our experienced New York workers’ comp attorneys. Our international staff speaks Polish, Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) and Russian.
Photo/caption: Please use the headshot we always use for David Klein. Thanks, Vanessa