woman having a sprain at work

Frequently Asked Questions about Workers’ Compensation

“I think I hurt myself at work. What do I do?”  

That is a question faced by many individuals who sustain an injury while performing their job. There are over 2.5 million non-fatal workplace injuries and illnesses annually in the US.

Uncertainty and unfamiliarity about the Workers’ Compensation system often cause fear and recoil about what an injured worker should do or what they should expect if they are affected.  These frequently asked questions can help an injured worker navigate the waters of Workers’ Compensation and help lead to a path to recovery.   

I was at work and in an accident that caused injury. What should I do next? 

The first thing you should do following an accident at work is to ensure your and your coworkers’ immediate safety.  If your situation warrants a visit to an Emergency Room, call for an ambulance and obtain the appropriate emergency care.   

Regardless of the urgency of getting to medical care, you will want to notify your supervisor, HR director, and safety supervisor as soon as possible of the injury. Many injuries do not require a visit to an Emergency Room. Depending on your job or employer, there may be access to either a health care provider on-site or another means of receiving an expedited doctor’s visit. 

From the standpoint of initiating a course of action that helps you obtain care to recover from an injury, notifying your employer is a necessary first step. It is essential to note the injury’s date, time, and circumstance. A designated team member will complete an injury report form that starts the process of a Workers’ Compensation claim. 

What if there wasn’t an accident or injury, but I feel pain when doing my job? 

Not every workplace injury is a significant accident or trauma. Two of the three most common causes of on-the-job injuries are contact with objects and slips/trips/falls. However, overexertion is the other most common cause, so your pain or injury may not be felt immediately and may be developed over time. If you start to feel pain while performing a necessary function of your job, you will still want to notify your supervisor as soon as possible after the pain starts.   

Every state has a defined time frame to report a work injury. For example, in Illinois, the period of time to report an injury is 45 days, and in Indiana, it is 30 days.  

What is Workers’ Compensation? 

 Workers’ Compensation, often “Work Comp” or “Workman’s Comp,” is a state-mandated program paid by your employer, consisting of payments to be made after an employee is injured or disabled in connection with work. Just as you pay a private company for car insurance to cover damages in an accident, your employer pays an insurance company to cover damages in the event of an injury or illness. Each state has its own Workers’ Compensation laws that govern how the program runs in that state.   

Workers’ Compensation benefits to an employee who is hurt at work include: 

  • Replacement income  
  • Medical care from injury or illness 
  • Costs for retraining, aka Vocational Rehabilitation 
  • Compensation for permanent injuries 
  • Benefits to survivors of workers who are fatally injured 

Who is Who in my Workers’ Compensation claim? 

After a Workers’ Compensation claim has been started, you will be assigned a primary caseworker. This person may be an Adjuster or a Case Manager.   

An Adjuster is an employee of the Work Comp insurance company. They are responsible for the distribution of benefits in the form of income replacement to the injured worker and payment for medical bills to the health care providers. 

A Case Manager, often a Nurse Case Manager, is an independent person responsible for coordinating care on behalf of the injured worker. That often involves communication between different providers and obtaining approvals for necessary care. Every Work Comp claim will have an Adjuster, but usually, the more complicated cases are assigned to a Case Manager. 

What happens to my income if I can’t work because of my injury? 

If you cannot perform your job due to your injury, your wages will be replaced via Total Temporary Disability (TTD). TTD is paid to you by the Work Comp insurance company. Every state sets different levels of TTD as a percentage of your usual pay rate. You do not pay taxes on the income from TTD. 

Can my employer fire me if I file a Workers’ Compensation claim? 

No. Anti-retaliation laws in most states cover this. If an employer does retaliate against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim, the employer should be reported to the state’s Workers Compensation Commission. 

Who pays my medical bills? 

All medical bills related to a Workers’ Compensation claim are paid for by the Work Comp insurance carrier. An injured worker should expect not to have any out-of-pocket costs for their care related to their work injury. 

What if I have transportation difficulties getting to my doctor or therapy appointment for my work injury? 

Transportation can be provided by the Work Comp insurance company to and from your doctor or therapy visits.  If you have trouble getting to any appointments for your injury, notify your caseworker and ask for them to arrange transportation. 

Can I go see my own doctor? 

This is one of the differences in Workers’ Compensation that varies state by state. In some states, such as Indiana, the employer primarily directs medical care.  However, in most states, you can see whichever doctor you decide, up to a certain number. In Illinois, for example, you may choose any two doctors on your own. In some states, you may be directed by your employer to certain providers within a given time frame after the injury, and after that, you can choose. 

Should I get an attorney? 

Most Workers’ Compensation claims are fully resolved without an attorney; the individual gets the proper care, recovers from the injury, and returns to their normal work and life.

However, there are times when that end is not as straightforward.  If you feel your rights are not upheld and Workers’ Compensation benefits are not being fully applied to you, it may be beneficial to consult an attorney. 

We’re here for you 

Your Worker’s Compensation journey often begins in pain and uncertainty and ends with confidence, strength, and return to function when you have a physical therapist who is an expert in the field in your corner to help you navigate the course.     

If you’ve been hurt on the job and need to get back to your “100%,” call your nearest Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy location or visit our website to request an evaluation. 

Article By: Matt Lesniak, DPT 

Matt began his PT career 13 years ago, graduating with his DPT degree from Northwestern in 2009. He loves working with the full range of patients seen in the outpatient environment and has treated individuals from four years through 90+ years old.  He believes in providing rehab plans that integrate creative exercises with manual therapy to help people meet their health and functional goals. Matt specializes in overhead athletes, runners, individuals post-ACL injury, and Industrial Athletes. For those individuals, as with all his patients, he strives to rehabilitate and educate on joint loading and movement patterns to recover from an injury fully and to prevent future recurrence.  Matt currently treats patients at Ivy Rehab Physical Therapy in Lisle, IL. 


The medical information contained herein is provided as an information resource only, and does not substitute professional medical advice or consultation with healthcare professionals. This information is not intended to be patient education, does not create any patient-provider relationship, and should not be used as a substitute for professional diagnosis, treatment or medical advice. Please consult with your healthcare provider before making any healthcare decisions or for guidance about a specific medical condition. If you think you have a medical emergency, call your doctor or 911 immediately. IvyRehab Network, Inc. disclaims any and all responsibility, and shall have no liability, for any damages, loss, injury or liability whatsoever suffered as a result of your reliance on the information contained herein.

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