Action Steps for Injured Workers

If you are injured or become sick because of your work, you have a right to medical treatment and, in some cases, wage replacement benefits under workers compensation. Workers' Compensation is a type of insurance that all Massachusetts employers are required to have for their employees.

All workers are covered - no matter how many hours they work, regardless of whether they were paid in cash "under the table" and their immigration status.

The following are some steps you can take. Each step has links to fact sheets that will assist you. For more detailed information, see Massachusetts workers' compensation pamphlet here.

If you need further help, contact a COSH (Coalition for Occupational Safety and Health) organization in your region to assist you.

1. Report the injury to your employer
Tell your employer right away even if it does not seem serious at the time. You may have symptoms later. If you wait until the next day, you may have to prove that you were not injured outside the workplace.

2. Get medical treatment right away - see an occupational clinician, if possible.
You have the right to see the doctor of your own choosing, even if your employer requires you to see their own medical provider. Ask your doctor to use Workers' Compensation, not your regular medical insurance. (The insurance company for Workers' Compensation is a different company from your regular medical insurance or MassHealth, etc. Workers' Compensation system is a separate system from regular medical insurance.)

Where possible see an occupational clinician - not only will you get a better diagnosis and treatment but they often have more experience filing the necessary paperwork for workers compensation and properly describing the injury as work-related.

3. Document the problem
Document everything: Report the incident to your employer in writing. Keep a copy of your letter. Get a copy of anything you are asked to sign. If anybody witnessed your injury, write their names down, so you don't forget. Start a diary: write down what the injury was, how it happened. Every day, write down your symptoms. If you are in a union, tell your union representative right away.

4. Seek an attorney, if the workers' compensation provider rejects your claim.
You do not have to get a lawyer to receive Workers' Compensation benefits. But, sometimes insurance companies refuse to pay benefits. If you have trouble getting benefits, get a lawyer to help you. Even if your claim is rejected, a lawyer can help you try again. The lawyer is not paid by you - s/he is paid by the insurance company if you win the case. If you lose your case, your lawyer can only charge you for expenses they had to pay, such as fees for doctors' reports and hospital records.

5. Know your rights to protection against discrimination and right to medical leave, if applicable.
It is against the law for your employer to fire you or discriminate against you because you got hurt at work or because you filed a Workers' Compensation claim. If your employer retaliates against you, you can file a claim with the Mass. Commission Against Discrimination. However, the burden will be on you to prove that you were fired for filing a claim.

Even if your employer does not offer sick days, you may also be entitled to take time off under Massachusetts Paid Family Medical Leave. Click here for more information.

6. Address the unsafe conditions that caused your injury
In order to avoid worsening your injury or re-injuring yourself - not to mention your co-workers - take steps to improve the health and safety of your workplace. Learn more about what to do...

7. Get help from other injured workers
In Massachusetts, and across the country, injured workers have joined together to form groups to offer peer support, assistance and address policy concerns. Click here for more information on RSI Action, just one worker support group in the Boston area.

Adapted from materials written by MassCOSH, Hurt on the Job written by Western MassCOSH, and Workers Compensation in Massachusetts, written by the Mass. Department of Public Health