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When you sustain an injury at work and can identify the precise time and date of the occurrence, this usually indicates that it�s traumatic. Cuts, scrapes and abrasions are examples of traumatic injuries. Lifting injuries are almost always traumatic because you can specifically cite the exact movement that caused the strain or injury and the precise moment it occurred. A traumatic injury is one that occurs within a regular shift, it is NOT an injury that progresses over time.
What Do You Do?
Your supervisor is obligated by law to provide you with the necessary forms if you choose to file a claim. S/he is also obligated to process these forms in a timely manner.
Inform your supervisor of your injury as soon as possible. Do Not Delay. You have three years to file a claim, but you risk denial by waiting. Make every attempt to file a CA-1 within 30 days if possible, since it directly affects your COP (Continuation Of Pay) benefits. Your supervisor must provide you with form CA-16, authorizing payment to the health care provider of your choice. Take this form to your doctor of choice � emergency care doesn�t count. You will also be given a CA-17 for the doctor to use if s/he restricts your duties. Your supervisor should complete the left side of the CA-17 before presenting it to you.
Seek medical attention immediately, if the situation warrants it. If not, seek medical attention the next day. This will help you document your condition while it�s still acute. I highly recommend this so you can begin your paper trail. Your goal is to document the symptoms/condition and diagnosis as close as possible to the time of your injury. If you allow time to pass before seeking medical attention, symptoms may diminish, making it difficult for your doctor to accurately document your symptoms or condition.
COP was designed to aid employees during the period of time right after a traumatic work related injury, so there is no interruption in pay. When you file a CA-1, make sure you check the box on the back of the form requesting Continuation of Pay, even if you�re not sure you�ll use it. Keep in mind; this only applies to traumatic injuries. Your supervisor probably won�t advise you to request COP since it costs the postal service money, but I advise you to check the box on the CA-1 so you�ll have the option to use it if the need arises. Remember, you must file a CA-1 within within 30 days of the injury to be eligible for COP. You have 45 from the date of injury to begin using your COP and may use up to 45 days; some restrictions apply. Using COP cannot be used against you.
Doctor of Choice
After the initial emergency visit, follow up with your own physician. Your own physician will then become your doctor of record. If you continue to seek medical treatment from the emergency doctor, then s/he would become your doctor of record. This is not necessarily a good idea since the staff of an urgent care facility may not know you as well as your own doctor. Once your choice has been established, you may switch doctors only with written authorization from the Department of Labor.
You need to substantiate your claim with plausible medical documentation. Doctors don�t like committing themselves to �positively� diagnosing an injury as work related. Your doctor doesn�t necessarily have to say that your injury was unquestionably �caused� by your work. S/he only needs to show causal relationship between your injury and your duties. However, your doctor does have to say your condition was �aggravated�, �exacerbated�, "precipitated" or �accelerated� by your duties. Documentation received from your doctor is the single most important component in a traumatic injury claim. To get your claim approved, your physician will need to be thorough. Don�t let the doctor take any short cuts, force her or him to be exact and complete.
Another way to document the injury is to find a witness to the event. Ask the witness to write a statement of what s/he saw. This is a great tool to use when filing a traumatic claim. If the witness refuses to write a statement make sure you use her/his name when writing your statment of facts.
Summary: Traumatic Injury
Remember: You are responsible for your own claim. NOT management; NOT the union. You must insure the accuracy of the information and must provide suitable documentation. Management is responsible for providing and submitting forms. Unfortunately, management�s knowledge of worker�s comp issues is severely limited; so don�t expect a lot of help from your supervisor. Keep records and copies of everything.