I Hurt My Back at Work: What Should I Do Next?

Back injuries can be debilitating. They don’t just affect your ability to do your job; they can also make it impossible to do simple, everyday tasks.

If you suffered a back injury at work, you might also have questions about compensation. Is my employer responsible for paying my medical bills? What about lost time from work?

It’s a lot to deal with, and you don’t have to do it by yourself. An experienced personal injury attorney can help you navigate the complex world of workers’ compensation, get paid sooner and help you focus on recovering from your injuries.

Below, we’ll share some general advice on what to do after hurting your back at work.

Understanding work-related back injuries

Back injuries in the workplace can range from acute strains and spinal injuries, often resulting from activities like heavy lifting, to chronic conditions, which can arise from repetitive movements, poor posture or prolonged sitting in ergonomically unsound positions.

Identifying the nature of your back injury is a crucial first step.

Next, in the context of Missouri’s personal injury law, it’s important to recognize the work-relatedness of your back injury. A work-related injury is one that occurs while you are performing duties on behalf of your employer or during work hours. Pre-existing conditions can complicate claims, especially if the work activity exacerbates an existing back issue.

Recognizing the signs: Symptoms of a work-related injury

To receive proper treatment and start the recovery process, it is important to know when you are hurt. Symptoms may include pain, stiffness and reduced mobility, especially if the job involves repetitive tasks or risk factors like regular heavy lifting for construction workers.

In some cases, back pain may be accompanied by more severe symptoms that require immediate medical attention. These warning signs include severe pain that worsens over time, numbness or weakness in the legs, and loss of bladder or bowel control. If you experience any of these symptoms, it’s important to see a doctor immediately.

A doctor may recommend short-term pain relief medications. However, opioids and benzodiazepines are not advised for work-related back injuries due to the potential for tolerance and dependence. Always follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations for managing your pain and treating your injury.

What to do immediately after your injury?

Even if your injury seems minor, it’s important to seek medical care immediately after noticing your injury.

1. Seek medical help

When seeking medical help, be thorough when describing your symptoms to the doctor. This will help them differentiate between injuries sustained at work and those unrelated to the incident. This information will also be valuable for any future workers’ compensation claims.

In addition to evaluating your injury, your doctor may discuss potential work restrictions or adjustments with you and your employer to facilitate a safe return to work. These restrictions may include refraining from lifting heavy objects, repetitive movements or engaging in physically strenuous activities, as well as performing light-duty or modified-duty work. It’s essential to follow your healthcare provider’s recommendations to ensure a smooth recovery.

The medical bills for your work-related back injury should be sent to your employer or their workers’ compensation insurance policy directly. This ensures that the expenses are covered by the appropriate party and helps to streamline the process for both you and your employer.

2. Document your injury

A successful workers’ compensation claim requires detailed records of your work-related back injury. This documentation should include:

  • Medical bills
  • Doctor’s notes
  • Eyewitness accounts from coworkers
  • Any other relevant information that can support your claim

Accurate documentation can not only assist healthcare professionals in determining the cause and severity of your back injury but also support your insurance claim and increase your chances of receiving the medical care and benefits you’re entitled to.

3. Notify your employer and file a claim

Notifying your employer about your back injury as soon as possible is not just a procedural formality; it is a critical step in protecting your rights and ensuring you receive the benefits you’re entitled to.

In Missouri, the law requires this notification to be within 30 days of discovering the injury. This notification can be verbal, but it’s advisable to provide written notice for documentation purposes. Include details such as the date of the injury, how it occurred and the nature of your symptoms.

Once you have notified your employer, the next step is to file a workers’ compensation claim. In Missouri, employers are required to report the injury to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier. However, it can be beneficial for you as an employee to independently file a claim with the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation. This can be done by submitting a “Claim for Compensation” form. Filing this claim is essential as it formally starts the process of seeking compensation for medical expenses and lost wages due to your injury.

It’s important to note that filing a claim does not guarantee benefits. The workers’ compensation insurer will review your claim, which might involve evaluating medical records, work history and the circumstances of your injury. During this process, maintaining communication with your employer and the insurance carrier is vital. If your claim is disputed or denied, you may need to seek legal assistance to resolve the matter.

Navigating the claims process

Navigating the workers’ comp claims process can sometimes be complex and overwhelming, especially when dealing with a back injury that impacts your ability to work and perform daily activities.

Initially, after reporting your injury and filing a claim, you’ll likely engage with your employer’s insurance company. This phase involves assessments by medical professionals, determination of your work-related injury’s severity and calculation of benefits. As we’ve mentioned a few times, it’s crucial to keep thorough records of all medical treatments and correspondences related to your injury.

As your claim progresses, you may encounter several stages, including the initial review, possible requests for additional information, and ultimately, the decision on your claim. If your claim is approved, you will start receiving benefits for medical expenses and possibly for lost wages. These benefits are intended to assist you until you can return to work, either in your previous capacity or in a modified role.

Throughout this process, it’s important to adhere to all guidelines and deadlines. Missing a deadline or failing to provide required documentation can result in delays or denial of your claim.

When to contact a lawyer

There are specific situations during the claims process where seeking legal counsel is advisable:

  1. Claim Denial – If your workers’ compensation claim is denied, a lawyer can help you understand the reasons for the denial and assist in the appeal process.
  2. Dispute Over Benefits – If there is a dispute about the benefits you are entitled to, such as the amount of compensation or the duration of benefits, a lawyer can negotiate on your behalf.
  3. Severe Injuries – If your back injury is severe, leading to long-term or permanent disability, a lawyer can ensure that your compensation reflects the seriousness of your condition.
  4. Retaliation or Unfair Treatment – If you face retaliation from your employer for filing a workers’ compensation claim or believe you are being treated unfairly, a lawyer can protect your rights.
  5. Complex Cases – Some cases, especially those involving pre-existing conditions or injuries occurring under unusual circumstances, can be legally complex. A lawyer with experience in workers’ compensation can navigate these complexities.

Speak with a skilled Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer

If you’ve suffered a work-related back injury, don’t hesitate to contact Niemeyer, Grebel and Kruse for a free consultation to discuss your case and explore your options.

With extensive experience representing clients with spinal cord injuries caused by work injuries and other accidents, the team at NGK Law can provide valuable guidance and support throughout your journey to recovery. Call 314-241-1919 today.

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