According to a 2007 U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics report, 26 percent of the 1.2 million employees who suffered workplace injuries and required time off spent 31 days or more away from work. If you are injured on the job and can't get back to work within a week or so, Workers Compensation will reimburse you for some of your lost wages. Unfortunately, those benefits do not kick in, in some states, for 2-3 weeks. Here are some things you can do to cover bills while waiting for Workers Compensation benefits to arrive.
Paying Bills When You Are Off Work for Injury
Create an emergency fund before you ever get injured. Perhaps it seems impossible, but putting $10-20 a week in a money market savings account, which pays a higher rate of interest than the standard savings account, can add up and provide enough to tide you over, even for a short period of time.
Check with your Human Resources administrator to see if you are eligible to take out a hardship loan on your retirement account (401k). Most plans will allow 401k loans for college, buying a house and medical needs. Many plans now have account access online, so the process may be as simple as filling out a request form on the website, and possibly having the funds directly deposited into your savings or checking account.
Consider purchasing accident insurance through a company such as Aflac (link in Resource section). Policies vary from state to state, but this can provide a cushion in the event that you are injured and can't return to work immediately. Aflac typically pays out on claims within 3-4 days, and can help cover the cost of rent, utilities and other necessities.
Call your creditors, mortgage and car loan lenders, as soon as possible to make payment arrangements. Explain your situation and let them know that you want to avoid late fees and penalties on your credit. Don't promise a specific date when the bills will be paid in full, since you don't know when the Workers Compensation benefits will arrive, nor how much they will be. Simply ask creditors to work with you during this rough spot. Get the name, address and department of the person you have spoken with so that you can follow up with a letter.
Seek help through programs in your area, such as Community Action. Call your local Department of Human Services to inquire about what help may be available in your area. While these programs probably can't help you pay car or mortgage payments, they can assist with paying for heat and other utilities.
Consider selling some items online, through sites such as eBay or Craigslist. The income is not necessarily instant, but it can help you to build up cash so that you can get back on track more quickly.
Tips & Warnings
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. Your lenders and creditors appreciate communication much more than unexplained late payments and ignored telephone calls.
- Avoid payday loans if at all possible. These types of loans can end up making things worse because they tend to create an unbreakable cycle.
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