Airline Employees: Tips On What To Do Following A Workplace Injury
Since I was first licensed to practice law, I have always made airline workers a priority. My mother is a flight attendant and my first client was a flight attendant. Much of the following information is best practice for any industry. However, this post answers some of the most frequent questions and misconceptions I hear from people in the airline industry. More comprehensive guides to the workers' compensation process can be found elsewhere on this site.
If You Remember Nothing Else:
YOU CAN NEITHER BE FIRED NOR PENALIZED FOR FILING A CLAIM.
It is a common misconception that reporting your injury or filing a claim can lead to your dismissal. This is considered retaliation and carries serious consequences for the employer.
Workers' compensation coverage begins day 1 of your employment.
Even if you cause the accident, you are still entitled to benefits (with very limited exceptions - don't injure yourself stealing those mini-liquor bottles!).
The insurance company (most likely Sedwick) can require you to undergo an examination with a doctor of their choice. YOU ARE ENTITLED TO A SECOND OPINION FROM A DOCTOR OF YOUR CHOICE.
You can choose your own doctors.
Following An Accident
Report your injury to human resources as soon as possible. Most airlines have numbers employees need to call, based on their job title, to report work related injuries. In addition, notify coworkers in your vicinity of the injury in case witnesses become necessary. Be sure to get their contact information.
Seek medical treatment immediately (or as soon as possible).
Your employer is required to pay for all medical care that is reasonably necessary. This includes everything from first aid to surgery and rehabilitation. You can choose your doctor, so long as they are in the employer network (if there is no preferred network, you can choose any doctor).
If your employer is denying medical benefits for a contested injury and you need treatment, go through your commercial health insurance. You can always be reimbursed later.
Contact an attorney. They will help you determine the best course of action based on the specific circumstances of your claim. Airlines and insurance companies have only their best interest in mind. Insurers routinely request "independent" medical evaluations to help them deny temporary benefits. Without representation, they will often ignore correspondence from injury victims altogether.
You Are Entitled To:
Necessary medical care at no cost to you (with a few exceptions).
Temporary Partial/Total Disability until you can return to work (a weekly paycheck equal to 2/3 of your average weekly paycheck, subject to maximum amounts).
When you return to work, a lump sum settlement known as a Permanent Partial Disability award for more serious injuries.
I said it before and I will say it again, contact an attorney. Workers' compensation is a complicated process and it is imperative that you do not allow insurers to gain the upper hand. Clients consistently come to our office injured, unable to work, with temporary pay benefits cut off due to unfavorable medical opinions from company doctors. Even after filing emergency motions, it can take 9 months to a year to get their paychecks turned back on. Going one year without a paycheck would cause any family untold stress. Consulting an attorney can help you avoid a similar fate.