If someone is injured at work, it's naturally not "fair" for them to have to take their paid time off to recover. In fact, in Indiana, it's illegal for a company to force their injured workers to use their PTO while they're hurt. This doesn't mean, however, that it will never benefit an injured worker to take their vacation pay while they recover.
In some cases, the workers' compensation benefits that a person may be entitled to can be lower than their regular wages. This depends on the extent of the injury as well as the agreement that each individual worker reached with the insurance company. If they use PTO, they could be getting paid their full salary.
There's a bit of a gray area in the workers' compensation law regarding this situation. Therefore, it can certainly benefit workers to understand some of the scenarios that could play out if they are injured at work and what to use their vacation days. Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also help with situations like changing jobs while on workers comp in Indiana.
Will Workers Compensation Benefits Cover a Person's Full Salary?
All rules have their exceptions, but one of the main issues with workers' compensation benefits is that they don't tend to cover a person's full salary. While a company cannot legally deny workers' compensation claims, they may try to convince their employees not to file them. The reason behind this is pretty simple.
Companies don't want their insurance providers to raise their rates because they've had to cover compensation benefits over a smaller injury. They may convince their employees to use their sick time while they heal. This is done under the pretext that sick pay or vacation time will be paid in full.
If a worker does decide to use their PTO after an injury, they still have to contend with a major issue. Who's going to pay their medical expenses? Supposing they don't file a claim on time, they could be stuck paying out of pocket for medical treatment. In the best-case scenario, they could get their personal medical insurance to cover the bill, but they'd have to contend with the potential rising rates they're saving their employer from.
Why Workers May Opt to Take Their Personal Days If They Are Injured
Most people make this decision if they have a lighter injury that they feel they can treat at home. If company policies stipulate that sick days are paid in full, they could take those and nurse themselves back to health. This route is viewed as the less complicated option.
The big problem comes when the issue turns out to be more severe than expected and that person doesn't file a workers' compensation claim. It's going to be harder to get the insurance company to pay medical bills. It's a risky proposition all because of this notion that workers' compensation benefits rob people of a portion of their salary.
Some Companies May Not Allow Injured Workers to Take PTO
Does the company even allow its employees to decide if they want to take their pay instead of filing a workers' compensation claim? There are two different situations here that people need to be aware of. It's one thing to take vacation pay instead of filing a claim. The other scenario involves people who are currently on workers' compensation benefits and they want to take time off.
The employee handbook that each company hands out typically covers this topic. Company policies are what will dictate the options that workers have in this situation. After sustaining a workplace injury, it could be a good idea to read through the handbook to see what the options are.
Going on a Vacation as an Injured Worker Without Taking PTO
In this scenario, an injured worker currently receiving workers' compensation benefits decides to take a vacation while injured without notifying anyone. They're injured anyway; they don't have to show up to work, and the worker's compensation is lower than their salary, so why not take a holiday?
It turns out that they could have very unpleasant consequences, especially if they skip an appointment with a doctor while they're on vacation. This could give the insurance company grounds to file a forfeiture petition. Their argument would be that the worker is not taking advantage of the medical expenses they are being forced to pay.
If a forfeiture petition passes, that could mean an end to the workers' compensation benefits as well as the medical treatment. People who have been caught in this unfortunate situation think it's no big deal to go on vacation while injured.
It's very important to keep in mind, however, that insurance companies want to pay as little as possible always. In spite of the fact that the workers' compensation law is meant to protect employees, there are still some loopholes that companies can exploit. If injured workers make these types of poor decisions, they are only making things easier on the insurance company.
When to Contact a Workers Compensation Attorney
Quite frankly, anyone who's suffered a workplace injury and has doubts about how workers' compensation works will benefit greatly from contacting a workers comp attorney. The sooner they contact an attorney after a workplace accident, the better. As mentioned, companies can't legally force anyone to use PTO after a workplace accident.
Many times, though, they'll try and offer workers what they perceive as quick solutions to a particular problem. Most of these involve things like agreeing to a settlement upfront to avoid any legal confrontation between themselves and their workers. However, people who suffer severe injuries are going to have no choice but to file a workers' compensation claim.
If they don't, they could lose their only way to pay medical bills. Unfortunately, many people are clouded by the idea that they'll lose income if they don't use PTO when hurt. Workers' compensation and paid medical expenses are better than a full salary and no money to even see a doctor.
Knowing this, most competent attorneys will recommend that the person file a workers comp claim. In spite of the lost income that could come as a result of low workers' compensation, those financial losses are preferable to avoid financial hardship, which could befall anyone paying medical bills out of pocket. Getting a free consultation from the right attorney can bring clarity to a dark situation.