5 things to know about workers' compensation in New Mexico

While your job requires you to complete tough tasks every day, you are proud of the work you complete at the end of your shift. You may go to bed with sore muscles from the physical labor that your work requires, but the pay you receive for accomplishing work goals is worth it. That is, until the muscle aches fail to disappear after a good night's sleep. What happens when those aches develop into an injury that can't be fixed without a doctor's aid?

You want to keep working, but your injuries prevent you from doing your job well. While medical aid would certainly help to limit the pain, you can't afford to pay those bills out of pocket. Although you are certain that you were hurt on the worksite, you are afraid to report your injuries to your employer because you are worried that you will lose your job.

The truth is employers are legally prohibited from retaliating against workers for reporting injuries, and injured workers in New Mexico are entitled to workers' compensation benefits, no matter who caused the injury.

To ensure that you receive all of the benefits you need and deserve, it is important to seek help from an experienced workers' compensation lawyer. An attorney with experience in work-injury claims can explain your full range of options.

In some cases, an injured worker may receive the maximum in compensation by bringing a third-party negligence claim. This kind of legal claim is appropriate if a third party - not your employer - caused your injury.

If you have been hurt on job, these are points that you need to consider:

1. Who is covered?

In most cases, those working at a business that employs three or more employees will be covered by the employer's workers' compensation policy. In June 2016, the New Mexico Supreme Court ruled that employers of agricultural laborers are also required to extend this coverage. Previous to this ruling, those working on farms were not covered.

2. How do I know if my employer provides workers' compensation?

Employers providing workers' compensation are required by law to post information about their workers' compensation policy in a highly visible location. They may also provide instructions regarding the appropriate hospital or facility that should be used in case of an injury. It is a good idea to locate this information before the injury occurs so that you know where to go and whom to notify.

3. What are the deadlines that I need to meet in order to be covered?

The WCA guidelines state that employees must provide written notice to a supervisor within 15 days of sustaining a work-related injury. It is recommended that you document the day you told your employer of your injury and photocopy your written notice so that you can prove compliance with WCA rules. The Notice of Accident form is accessible on the WCA website. Should your injuries prevent you from notifying your supervisor within 15 days, your window for notification extends to 60 days.

4. How long do I need to wait before seeking coverage?

If you are seriously injured, you should go to the closest emergency room. For injuries that are a "non-emergency," you can report the injury to your employer before seeking medical treatment.

5. Which doctor may I see for treatment?

Certain doctors are covered by your employer's workers' compensation insurance policy, and your employer may try to determine which doctor you see. If the doctor selected by your employer does not provide the type of treatment you need, a workers' compensation attorney can help you explore your options for the right kind of treatment.

The New Mexico Workers' Compensation Administration (WCA) maintains a helpful website that provides resources regarding coverage, health care providers, frequently asked questions and an employee handbook, among other documents.

Again, contact an experienced workers' comp attorney to understand your full range of options for receiving full and fair compensation for your injury.

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