Job-related injuries are commonplace in many fields. When it happens to you, however, the accident takes on a whole new dimension. You may feel panicked and in shock. If the injury is severe, you may not know whether you’ll be able to return to work anytime soon – or ever again.

With any job-related injury, you need to take steps to protect your rights. Here are three things you can do right away to prevent problems down the road.

1. Report the injury to your employer

To start a workers’ compensation claim, you must report the injury to your employer. There are strict deadlines for this step. If you wait too long, you could lose out on valuable benefits.

Don’t let fear of retaliation keep you from exercising your rights. Employers cannot punish their employees for pursuing workers’ compensation claims.

2. Get medical treatment

After an injury, your well-being is a priority. Getting an accurate diagnosis is essential for beginning the healing process and avoiding further injury. What’s more, a thorough medical evaluation (and detailed medical records) will play an important role in your workers’ comp claim. Your employer may have a list of covered health care providers for you to choose from.

3. Consult with a lawyer – and not just any lawyer

With valuable benefits on the line, it’s wise to enlist the help of an attorney. Working with a lawyer can reduce the risk of delays and denials.

However, it’s important to choose the right lawyer. The workers’ compensation system has its own rules, procedures and personnel. The individual judge who handles your case holds a lot of power. Your attorney must understand these nuances, and he or she must have extensive experience navigating workers’ comp claims in Pennsylvania.