The medical field can be a challenging place in which to work. In particular, nurses encounter many different dangers in the workplace. Some of the more common dangers that nurses face include:
- Lifting patients and medical equipment
- Slipping or tripping and falling
- Cuts and potential infections
These dangers and others often result in injuries which require medical treatment and time out of work. When nurses suffer injuries doing their jobs, they should receive workers compensation benefits.
What does workers compensation do for a nurse who is injured on the job?
Each state has different workers compensation laws. In Georgia, the two most important benefits that workers compensation provides to nurses are medical benefits and wage loss benefits.
Workers compensation medical benefits cover the medical treatment and testing you need for your work-related injury with certain authorized doctors. The advantage of this medical treatment and testing is that the workers compensation insurance company covers one hundred percent of the cost of the treatment and testing. Injured workers do not have to pay a copay or deductible.
Another advantage is that you can generally get medical treatment quickly. One of the main ideas of the workers compensation system is that your employer provides you medical treatment quickly for the injury that you suffered.
The other main benefit is wage loss benefits. Nursing is a very physically demanding occupation. Many nurses have to assist patients and lift medical equipment. Most nurses spend most of the day of their feet.
Nurses who suffer injuries to their legs or back may find it difficult to stand most of the day. Nurses who injure their back, legs, or arms often have difficulty doing the heavy lifting their jobs require. This means that they often have to come out of work while they recover from these injuries.
When an injured worker cannot work as a result of an injury, the workers compensation insurance company should pay temporary total disability benefits. When someone can work at a light duty job but makes less money, temporary partial disability benefits should be paid.
Both of these benefits are workers compensation’s version of lost wages. They are not the full amount. Instead, they are generally two-thirds of your lost wages. But, these benefits are certainly a critical part of the benefits when your injury causes you to miss work.
Are there other workers compensation benefits nurses can receive?
Yes. The third primary Georgia workers compensation benefit is permanent partial disability. Permanent partial disability benefits only get paid if you end up suffering a permanent loss of function as a result of your injury.
Can nurses receive other types of benefits in addition to workers compensation when they are unable to work?
Workers compensation pays you a percentage of your lost wages when you are out of work from an injury. But, many people find it difficult to get by on the percentage of their wages that workers compensation pays.
Some people have access to other types of benefits they can receive in addition to workers compensation wage loss benefits. The most common type of benefit is short or long term disability insurance.
Short and long term disability is insurance coverage that many nurses have through their employer. Even if you do not have it through your employer, you may have an individual short and long term disability insurance policy.
These policies often provide some additional benefits over what workers compensation pays. Because there are usually offsets and credits with short and long term disability and workers compensation. the exact benefit will depend on the exact language in the insurance policy. This article has some additional helpful information about eligibility for short and long term disability after work-related injuries.
What happens if my injury prevents me from going back to my regular nursing job?
Many times, serious injuries do result in permanent activity restrictions. Serious back and arm injuries often result in restrictions on lifting. Back and leg injuries often result in standing and walking restrictions.
When these restriction are permanent, they may keep you from returning to the type of work you did before your injury. Many nursing jobs require nurses to be able to assist in moving patients that might weight two to three hundred pounds or more and to lift objects that weight up to fifty or seventy-five pounds. Permanent lifting restrictions can prevent you from being able to perform those tasks.
A few different issues can arise when your injury prevents you from returning to your regular job:
- Can your employer fire you or lay you off?
- Does your employer have to provide you a light duty job suitable to your work restrictions?
- Will the insurance company have to keep paying wage loss benefits if you cannot return to work?
Can your employer fire you or lay you off?
Yes. Your employer can likely fire you if they decide to do so. Georgia is a “right to work” state. That means that most employees are employees at will.
The most important thing to understand is that getting fired does not end your workers compensation case, but it can affect your eligibility for certain benefits. Also, you can potentially lose other employment benefits (health insurance, etc.) when you get fired or laid off.
Does your employer have to provide you a light duty job suitable to your work restrictions?
No. Your employer does not have to provide you with a light duty job. But, many employers do choose to provide light duty work.
One of the reasons employers provide light duty work is to reduce what your workers compensation case costs them. If you are receiving workers compensation wage loss benefits, providing a suitable light duty job can allow them to stop paying those benefits.
Georgia’s workers compensation laws have very specialized rules about light duty job offers. Be sure that you understand those before you return to a light duty job.
Will the insurance company have to keep paying wage loss benefits if you cannot return to work?
Probably. If you start receiving wage loss benefits, you can continue to receive them for some time. But, there are a number of things that can happen which allow the insurance company to stop paying your benefits.
Some of the common situations are when the doctor release you to return to regular duty work with restrictions and when the insurance company offers you a suitable light duty job. Also, there are time limits on how long you can receive wage loss benefits.
What can nurses do if the workers compensation insurance company does not approve the medical treatment they need?
This is extremely frustrating. I mentioned earlier in this article that the ability to get medical treatment quickly is one of the main benefits of workers compensation. Unfortunately, insurance companies often prevent this from happening.
The basic idea of workers compensation medical treatment is that you have a main doctor known as your authorized treating physician. This doctor treats your injury and can also refer you for specialized care.
The insurance company should pay for treatment that your authorized treating physician recommends. But, they often refuse to do that. This refusal delays your recovery from your work injury.
Fortunately, there are steps an attorney can take to deal with the insurance company’s delay and denial of medical treatment. This article discusses some of those steps.