There are almost 48,000 K-12 teachers in Arizona. Although many people think of teaching as a safe job, the reality is that countless teachers are hurt working each year. Their injuries often cause great pain, keeping them out of the classroom against their will. At Snow, Carpio & Weekley, PLC, we receive questions from teachers about whether they can receive workers’ compensation benefits. The answer is “yes.” Read this article for an overview of your rights and contact our firm to speak with an Arizona workers’ compensation attorney in person if you have additional questions.
How Teachers Are Injured
Teaching doesn’t have a reputation for being a dangerous profession, unlike construction or mining. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, teachers around the country suffered serious injuries and illnesses at work. In 2021, elementary and secondary school teachers endured 176,200 injuries or illnesses. The exact number varies by year, but in 2019 an astounding 223,500 injuries or illnesses were recorded.
Many teachers are injured in the following ways:
- Bus accidents. Teachers might chaperone students on field trips and get into an accident along the way. They suffer traumatic bodily injuries, including whiplash, fractures, chest injuries, and head injuries.
- Slip and falls. Many hazards at school will cause a teacher to fall, including broken tiles, worn-out carpets, crumbling steps, and spilled water. A teacher who falls can suffer serious head and back injuries.
- Overexertion. Teachers can suffer serious injuries when lifting heavy objects or even heat-related injuries if a school does not have a functioning cooling system.
- Repetitive motion injuries. Teachers can suffer carpal tunnel due to constant typing, or tennis elbow from writing on the chalkboard for too long. These injuries require rest for recovery.
- Respiratory illnesses. Teachers are exposed by students to many respiratory illnesses. Some of these illnesses might be relatively minor, like the common cold. Other illnesses could result in bronchitis, pneumonia, or another life-threatening condition.
- Workplace violence. Unfortunately, too many teachers are the victims of violence at school, often at the hands of students. According to one study, 6% of teachers had been attacked at school. They can suffer traumatic injuries or stab wounds.
- Toxic exposure. Some teachers are exposed to toxins as part of their teaching duties, such as science teacher exposure to formaldehyde. Toxic exposure can result in serious illnesses which might take months to be diagnosed properly.
One question teachers have is whether they qualify for benefits. For example, you might be injured off school property if you were acting as a chaperone for a field trip. That type of accident would still qualify as a workers’ comp injury because you were working when it happened.
Another question is whether an injury is serious enough to warrant benefits. As a rule, you will not receive any temporary total disability payments unless your injury keeps you out of work for at least 7 days.
Possible Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workplace injuries keep thousands of teachers out of work each year. The good news is that they can receive the same benefits as other injured Arizona workers for on-the-job injuries.
Medical benefits should cover:
- Emergency room treatment
- Hospital stays
- Diagnostic tests and examinations
- Surgery and related expenses
- Hospital overnight expenses and time in the Intensive Care Unit, if necessary
- Prescription medication, including painkillers and antidepressants
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Travel reimbursement to receive medical care
- Any care that is reasonable and necessary to treat your illness or injury
If a teacher cannot work, they might receive temporary or permanent disability benefits to replace lost wages. You can discuss your available compensation with a workers’ compensation lawyer in Arizona by contacting Snow, Carpio & Weekley today.
Steps to Take Following an Injury
Our firm recommends that you do the following:
- Notify your employer as soon as possible. This protects other people in the school and preserves your legal rights.
- Document the accident. If you slipped on the floor, use your phone to take a picture, just as you would photograph any hazard. Also write down the date and time of the accident.
- Identify witnesses, even students who saw the accident. They can help establish if your injury happened at work.
- Receive medical care without delay. Any delay could cast doubt on your claim. Someone might think you are making up your injury if you delay treatment.
- File your workers’ compensation claim within one year. It is the employee’s responsibility to ensure the claim is filed properly. You can consult our law firm if you have questions.
Common Questions Injured Teachers Have
Can I get short-term disability benefits?
That will depend on your school. Some school districts purchase private short-term disability coverage. You should check with your district. Whether your district has private insurance or not, Arizona workers’ compensation still covers injured workers, including teachers.
Can I file a workers’ compensation claim if a student attacked me in the classroom?
Yes. That is an injury arising out of employment, so the law covers it.
Does my district have long-term disability insurance?
The Arizona State Retirement System has a program which all public schools participate in. A worker who is totally disabled will qualify for long-term disability if they contributed into the system for at least 12 months and are totally disabled for at least 6 consecutive months. Even if you don’t qualify for long-term disability, you might still qualify for workers’ compensation. There is no waiting period for workers compensation—you are eligible for benefits as soon as you start working, so long as you suffer a qualifying injury. Unfortunately, too many teachers overlook workers’ comp as a source of benefits, focusing entirely on long-term disability.
Call Our Experienced Arizona Workers’ Compensation Lawyers to Learn More
The legal team at Snow, Carpio & Weekley, PLC, salutes all Arizona teachers for their dedication in educating the future generations. If you were hurt at work, you might feel confusion about what benefits you can obtain. Please contact our law firm to speak with one of our workers’ compensation lawyers in Arizona about your accident and injuries.