Workers compensation is designed to help employees who have suffered an injury on the job, but all too often it doesn’t work the way it is supposed to. In many cases, the system makes it all too easy for your employer to deny your injury or to offer you as few benefits as possible. In some cases, employers may even attempt to retaliate against workers who have been injured for failing to follow internal policy or to gather the right evidence to prove their claim.
The need to prove the extent of the injury with hard evidence – on strict deadlines – can also make the workers compensation system difficult to navigate for an employee who is trying to recover at the same time. For many injured workers, hiring a lawyer will be necessary to getting all of the compensation they deserve.
Hurt on the job? Give yourself a better chance for recovery by letting an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer serve as an advocate for you.
WORKERS COMPENSATION CLAIMS WE HANDLE
Workers’ compensation law involves a separate process than other types of legal action. Claims and appeals are handled outside of the civil court system and are governed according to unique rules. Injured workers who try to navigate the system on their own will need to quickly get familiar with the special rules and regulatory agencies involved – or risk losing out on the benefits they deserve.
What many workers seeking compensation don’t know is that they will often have to defend themselves and justify their claims. Your employer might try to deny different aspects of your claim, and you’ll need to file petitions and collect corroborating documents to prove yourself, whether your injuries are major or minor.
At your first workers’ compensation hearing, the judge will likely tell you to get a lawyer – and that’s sound advice. For starters, dealing with the workers’ compensation process is challenging even for general practice attorneys who don’t have experience with it. When you’re injured on the job, you’ll quickly find yourself having to deal with documents and deadlines you may not fully understand, and this could lead you to lose out on important benefits.
Instead of trying to become a legal expert in a short amount of time, focus on your recovery while allowing an experienced workers’ compensation attorney gather the resources you need to support your claim. A qualified attorney can guide you as you navigate the process that will allow you to get benefits and support yourself and your family in your time of need.
Some of the benefits you may be eligible for include:
- Medical treatment: Any treatment you required or healthcare costs you had to pay upfront should be available through workers’ compensation – from the initial visit to your doctor to the cost of any medical equipment, such as a wheelchair or a cast. You may also be eligible for healthcare services, such as counseling or therapy for your pain.
- Rehabilitation: As you recover from your injury, you may need to go to physical or occupational therapy in order to gain back all of your strength. With the right workers’ compensation lawyer, you could have access to these crucial services at no cost.
- Disability: Depending on the severity of your injury, you may be owed disability benefits. These are typically sorted into categories relating to the injury. Most workers’ compensation claims fall under the temporary total disability category, which occurs when you can’t work as a result of an injury for a certain amount of time. It compensates your lost income until you can go back to your job. Temporary partial disability is when your workplace injury allows you to still perform some parts of your job, though you may not be functioning at full capacity. Permanent total disability involves workplace injuries that prevent the employee from going back to the former job at all, and entitles you to compensation for lost wages, as well as lost earning potential. Last, permanent partial disability involves a permanent injury that will affect what types of work an employee can do, but it doesn’t fully stop him/her from working.
WHAT TO DO IF YOU ARE INJURED ON THE JOB
If you’ve been injured on the job, it is important to act quickly in order to have access to workers’ compensation benefits while complying with your employer’s guidelines and the law. The first action you must take is to seek medical attention for your injury, even if it doesn’t seem severe.
For many, injuries that occurred on the job will get more painful as time goes on – but if you wait to document your healthcare needs, it may be too late to get the benefits you’ll need. Go to the emergency room or make an appointment with your doctor for an evaluation as soon as you suffer a workplace injury. After you’ve gotten medical attention, you will also need to:
Notify your employer
This step should also be taken as soon as possible, as your employer likely has deadlines for accepting workers’ compensation claims – in most cases, less than three days. If you fail to report your injury immediately, your employer may even have grounds to punish you. Get a workers’ compensation form from your employer and file a claim as soon as possible. If you belong to a union, notify your representative as well. Taking this step as early as you can ensures that the evidence will be fresh and that witnesses will still be able to remember the details of your workplace injury should you need to turn to them to corroborate your account.
See a doctor
Even if you’ve already gotten emergency medical attention, many employers will request that you visit a doctor chosen by the insurance company. This doctor will be reviewing your case and evaluating your injury in light of what possible medical benefits you may be entitled to, so you’ll want to pay attention during these appointments to the level of care you are receiving.
Keep track of your medical bills
If you are authorized for workers’ compensation, your employer’s insurance provider must pay for your medical bills within a certain timeframe. If you find yourself paying expenses that aren’t being covered, you’ll want to take action against the insurance provider.
Get a lawyer to help you negotiate your settlement
Whether you are entitled to a lump sum settlement or long-term disability payments, a workers’ compensation lawyer will be crucial in making sure you are paid for lost wages and healthcare costs. Your employer may attempt to deny the severity of your injury, pay you less than you deserve for your injury, or refuse to reimburse you when you pay for expenses out-of-pocket. Similarly, the insurance provider could also try to downplay your illness or injury in order to look out for its bottom line. If you’ve received a petition that denies you workers’ compensation benefits, you will need to quickly file a response – and a qualified workers’ compensation lawyer is the best person to turn to in those circumstances. With an experienced attorney by your side, any effort to deny, modify or terminate your benefits will be challenged to make sure you are taken care of. In addition, you may have grounds for a lawsuit outside of the workers’ compensation system, which an experienced attorney can help you prepare.