When you're injured on the job and can't continue working, you should be protected by workers' compensation; however, the benefits you receive aren't going to be equal to what you were earning, leaving you in a particularly tight bind. Life goes on, though, and if you have no plan for survival, this situation can ruin you financially. Don't let that happen to you.
1. File Your Workers' Compensation Claim Immediately
You need to inform your company of your injury right away and seek medical help. There are deadlines for reporting on-the-job injuries, so even if you feel what's happened to you isn't too big of a deal, covering all bases is your best option.
2. Talk To A Lawyer If Needed
Workers' comp lawyers know the legal ropes to pursuing a claim quickly. An attorney can help you navigate the paperwork and advise you in the long and short terms. Trying to get through this on your own could leave you high and dry when it comes to facing the insurance company and really understanding what you're up against.
3. Put The Brakes On All Unnecessary Spending
Because your income is suddenly precarious, you should halt all unnecessary spending. Don't go out to dinner, buy new clothes or splurge on anything you don't absolutely need. Analyze what you have in savings and think of how you can ration this money, stretching it over time to serve your interests and help you survive.
4. Make A New Budget To Reflect The Changes In Your Income
Your workers' compensation payments will be less than what your income was, meaning you need a new budget to follow quickly. If you have a spouse, you may be able to lean on their income for now, but how about in a few months or a year? Consider how long you'll be out of work, if you can return to the work you were doing, and what impact all of this will have on your home and vehicle. Workers' comp should provide for retraining in a new field if you're not physically able to return to your previous position; thus, you also need to make long-term career decisions, along with filing the right forms for retraining, if that's your best option.
5. Find A Way To Reduce Your Expenses
No matter how promising a workers' compensation settlement may seem, if that's in your future, don't live your life as if you've won the lottery. These types of cases can take all kinds of turns, and the smartest thing you can do is reduce your expenses, live beneath your means and adapt to a new, hopefully temporary, lifestyle that reflects the financial constraints you're facing right now. Be realistic about the money you have now and the debt you may be incurring as you move through your case, becoming as frugal as possible throughout.
6. Seek Help From As Many Services As Possible
If needed, you should apply for local assistance, such as for help with food, rent and/or utilities. While workers' compensation benefits should cover medical expenses related to your injury, are you going to need other care? What if, for example, you caught the flu and needed medicine or some other medical situation presents itself. How are you covered? While it's good to maintain your optimism and expect the best, it would behoove you to be prepared for the worst, even if it never happens.
Under the best possible circumstances, you are awarded your workers' compensation payments quickly and can return to work before your financial life falls apart, but if some other scenario befalls you, be prepared to fight. Surviving a period, especially prolonged, of not having the income you need to survive is brutal. Try to plan things out, rely on friends and family and get as much help as you can along the way.
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