YOUR RIGHTS TO WORKERS’ COMPENSATION, SUPPLEMENTAL PAY AND LEAVE
This is the second article in a two part series written by Don Meade, the attorney representing JCTA and its teachers in workers compensation cases. The first article, Attacked At School, covered teachers’ rights if they are the victim of physical assault. This article deals with how to claim workers compensation benefits and the special compensation for teachers injured in an assault under the JCTA/JCPS contract as a benefit of union membership.
WHAT IS WORKERS COMPENSATION?
Any teacher that is injured while working will be covered by workers’ compensation, a mandatory insurance for all employees provided by JCPS. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. The injury could arise from an act of violence by a student, a slip and fall on ice in the parking lot, lifting a box of books in the classroom or getting knocked over by a player during athletic practice. The cause of the injury is immaterial, so long as the teacher was working or the injury arose as a result of their work. This includes injuries while on school trips or supervising activities off school premises.
You do not have to file a lawsuit against JCPS in order to collect workers’ compensation. Benefits should be granted automatically if you follow the process of notifying JCPS of your injury and cooperate in providing the carrier information. A claim number and adjuster will be assigned. You are protected from losing your job if you file a claim. Once an injury is recognized as work related, the following benefits are available:
- Payment of 100% of medical expenses, without deductible or co-pays
- Payment of an income benefit of two-thirds of wages while off from work recuperating
- Payment of additional money in settlement for any permanent injuries that arise, and
- Lifetime coverage of future medical expenses for the care of any permanent injury.
SPECIAL ASSAULT BENEFITS
JCTA has negotiated significant additional benefits for injured teachers. Article 20 of the contract assures that no teacher will suffer any loss of wages for lost work time due to an injury that arises out of disruptive student conduct. Examples would be an assault, breaking up a fight or falling because of efforts to control student misconduct. JCPS has agreed to pay a supplement, in addition to the workers’ compensation benefit (two-thirds of wages), to assure that an injured employee receives 100% of wages for lost work time. Article 20 also assures that any additional cost of medical, surgical, hospital or rehabilitation services, which might not be covered by workers’ compensation, will be reimbursed by JCPS.
TAKE THESE STEPS TO PROTECT YOUR RIGHTS
Teachers must be vigilant to report injuries and protect their workers’ compensation rights:
- Report all work injuries to the principal’s office at the time they happen – even if you think they are minor. The natural tendency is to wait a few days to see if the soreness or pain passes. Yet many serious back, shoulder and knee problems that appear to be minor later become disabling or require surgery. A report should be made and an injury form filled out by JCPS. This is essential for demonstrating that the problem arose from work. Tell a coworker that you hurt yourself and document the date on your calendar.
- Do not use sick leave to cover time off for work related problems. It is your responsibility to give JCPS timely notice of your injury. If you plan to seek medical care, or take time off from work, this will be forwarded to the workers’ compensation carrier. They will set up a claim number to use with the doctor’s office. Once established as a work injury, workers’ compensation will cover lost work time after the first seven days, and will cover those first seven days if you are out of work for a total of 14 days. If you are off less than 14 days, it may be necessary to use sick time to cover the first seven days of absence.
- You have a right to choose your treating doctor. The insurance carrier may refer you to a doctor of its choosing for initial evaluation. You may continue with that doctor or choose one of your own. You even have a right to change your doctor.
- Workers’ compensation is the only legal remedy for collecting damages for a work related injury. (You may have an additional legal claim for compensation if your injury occurred because someone else was negligent, i.e. collided with your car while you were transporting students, assaulted by a student or parent, or injured by debris from a contractor’s maintenance work on the school building.)
- You have two years from the date of injury (or from the date you receive your last comp off-work income benefit check) to claim benefits, or your rights will expire.
A lawyer is often necessary to secure all the benefits due to an injured teacher and for protecting their job and return to work. Workers’ compensation claims can be complex because they involve medical/legal/insurance issues. Evaluating permanent injuries, and their impact on the teacher’s employment, can be critical for getting the proper financial settlement through workers’ compensation and any third party claims
Our law firm – Priddy, Cutler, Leightty & Meade –is available to answer your questions and help you with accidental injury claims, whether arising at school (workers’ compensation) or otherwise (car accident/personal injury). We offer JCTA members free consultation on any legal questions related to these problems. Legal fees for workers’ compensation are paid out of any settlement obtained. For more information, contact attorney Don Meade at 632 5290.