The private healthcare industry is one of the largest employers in the United States. In fact, two of the largest employers in the Richmond area are VCU Health System and HCA Virginia. Sadly, healthcare workers are particularly prone to workplace injuries for a number of reasons.
Most injuries in the healthcare work environment stem from interactions with patients. Lifting and repositioning patients is the most common way that healthcare workers are injured at work, as they find themselves straining their bodies while assisting bedbound or otherwise immobile or partially-immobile patients.
Workplace violence is also a common cause of injury in healthcare workers. Healthcare workers often find themselves dealing with people in various kinds of crisis, including mental illness and drug addiction. Such situations can be extremely volatile and sometimes dangerous, which makes healthcare workers more vulnerable to violence in the workplace than most other private sector employees.
Sprain and Strain Injuries
Any healthcare organization might find itself incurring a lot of expenses due to its workforce becoming injured on the job. The most common types of injuries in healthcare workers are sprain and strain injuries, with those being the most common in the low back.
Sprain and strain injuries are not, however, the most costly for employers or their insurance companies. Injuries incurred via slip, trip, or fall are usually the most expensive. The most expensive injuries are usually to the low back, the shoulder, and the knee.
Another issue that can arise in a workers compensation claim with a healthcare organization is that all of the medical providers on the panel will also work for the same organization. This means healthcare workers receive medical treatment through the employer, which can often cause problems, particularly since HIPAA does not apply to workers compensation cases in Virginia.
Healthcare Worker’s Compensation
Settling a workers compensation case can often be problematic for healthcare workers, also. Insurance companies often ask injured workers to resign and agree never to reapply for work with the employer when a case is settled.
Ostensibly, this is to prevent the injured worker from injuring the same body part again and having the insurance company pay for the injury twice. The practical application in areas where there are only one or two large healthcare organizations is to limit the potential employers for the injured healthcare worker, making it more difficult for them to return to work.
If you are a healthcare worker who has been injured on the job, your first step, as always, is to report your injury to your employer. The law gives you thirty days to do this, and the sooner you do it, the better off you will be. Once you have reported your injury to your employer, be sure to file a Claim Form with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission.
The Claim Form Form
The Claim Form was probably mailed to you by the Commission, assuming your employer reported the injury to the insurance carrier and the insurance carrier reported the injury to the Commission. If you did not get the Claim Form in the mail, you can find the form online at the Injured Workers’ Law Firm website or the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission website.
When completing this form, be sure to complete both parts. This means both Part A, where you describe your accident and list the body parts injured and Part B, where you tell the Commission what benefits you would like to claim.
What Benefits Can I Claim?
There are a few different types of benefits you could claim, and at this point in the process the most important are: lifetime medical benefits, temporary total disability benefits, and temporary partial disability benefits.
Lifetime medical benefits will entitle you to have all reasonable, necessary, and related medical treatment for your work injury paid for by your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier. This is a very important benefit and you want to claim it on your Claim Form.
As a healthcare worker, you might find yourself troubled if you are released to light duty work but have restrictions that prevent you from performing your normal job duties.
For example, if you are a nurse or someone else who regularly lifts, rotates, or otherwise physically moves patients, but you are given work restriction so no lifting more than 10 pounds, you will not be able to do your normal job duties.
In that situation, if your employer is unable to accommodate your work restrictions and give you light duty work, you may need to look for a job (and maintain a record of your job search!) in order to remain entitled to lost wage benefits.
Contact Us for Help Today
If you are unsure what benefits you are entitled to or whether you need to look for work, you can talk to an attorney who is knowledgeable in workers compensation.
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.