Work Injuries and When to Hire a Lawyer
When you are injured at work it can lead to a series of complicated situations. Workers compensation laws began taking shape in the Unites States in the early 1900s and have changed little since its inception. Many times, even after you qualify for workers compensation it does not mean you will be compensated. In fact, a long list of potential challenges and legal battles can be expected.
You deserve the best compensation possible when injured at work. Attaining this compensation is nearly impossible without the assistance of a qualified workers compensation lawyer. Knowing your rights pursuant to work injuries is crucial. Finding the best workers compensation lawyer for your case is also essential. Read on to learn more about which types of work injuries are covered by workers compensation insurance, when to hire a lawyer and what to expect during the process.
Types of Work Injuries Covered by Workers Compensation
Most injuries (and even some illnesses) sustained while on the job can be considered for a workers compensation case. However, not every injury or illness sustained at work is worth the pursuit. Minor injuries such as a small cut, a stubbed toe leading to an ingrown toenail or even a bumped head with no residual issues are likely not situations a workers compensation lawyer is willing to take on. Even if they happened at work they simply do not lead to lost wages or medical expenses warranting court proceedings.
Serious injuries such as broken bones, burns, lost limbs and accidents leading to significant time off work or loss of income are much more likely to be considered as viable cases. Some illnesses and emotional/mental trauma creating long-term disabilities are also considered as being viable. The more serious the injury, the larger the amount of income lost, the more credible and winnable your case becomes.
No-Fault System and Impairment
Workers compensation is meant to be a no-fault system. This means, regardless of who caused the accident leading to injury, as long as it happened on-the-job or even while performing work duties off-site, you are supposed to be entitled to compensation. There are caveats to this no-fault system, however.
First of all, if you are impaired on the job at the time of your injury, whether by alcohol, illegal drugs or prescription medication, you are ineligible for workers compensation benefits. Secondly, if you are found eligible to receive benefits, you receive them in exchange for an agreement to never sue your employer for negligence. Your employer pays a workers compensation insurance premium that binds him or her to itemized benefits as defined by laws applicable to your state. In turn, your employer is exempt from being sued for negligence.
When to Hire a Lawyer for Work Injuries
You need to hire a qualified workers compensation lawyer anytime you are injured at work and your injury leads to loss of income, loss of ability to work, medical expenses not covered by regular insurance and/or resulting disabilities (temporary or permanent). The laws behind workers compensation litigation are arcane and heavily weighed against the worker. If you have legitimate legal pretense, you need an experienced lawyer to help you navigate the system and win your case.
Reasons a Workers Compensation Lawyer Might Decline Your Case
Most workers compensation lawyers only get paid if you win your case. In minor cases, the financial compensation might not outweigh the potential expenses. While this might seem unethical or selfish, there are significant expenses your workers compensation lawyer might have to cover for you to keep your case moving until you receive a verdict.
Letters from your doctor(s) are crucial to the positive outcome of your case. Most doctors do not like to get involved in such things, however. One reason is such involvement is time-consuming. Other reasons are they are extremely busy, have many patients and prefer to focus on making patients medically better – not legal aspects of a workers compensation case. Therefore, many doctors charge fees of several hundred dollars or more to write their opinions in official, court-approved letters.
If you are embroiled in a workers compensation case, chances are good you are unable to work. This means expenses have mounted and income has diminished. Many workers compensation lawyers front costs for you (such as fees for official doctor statements), provided they believe your case is winnable and headed for financial rewards.
What to Expect During a Workers Compensation Case Process
Expect resistance and attitudes. In many instances it has been reported that the nurse case manager (NCM) poses initially as being on your side but as your case goes on over time, the less affable he or she becomes. The NCM is supposed to act as a buffer between you and the adjuster. Most communication from the workers compensation insurance company will come from the NCM, but almost all orders come from the adjuster on your case. The adjuster has many jobs, but the main one is to scrutinize your case to see if there is any legal reason to deny your benefits. This does not mean they are out to get you but rather it is an attempt to weed out the fraudulent claims from the legitimate claims.
Expect delays and frustrating tactics. Once you win your case, you are entitled money and the coverage of medical expenses related to your case. This will be court-ordered, but in many instances the workers compensation insurance company chooses to violate the order by arbitrarily and repeatedly stopping payments and coverage. It is a common strategy utilized by insurance companies in an attempt to have the worker drop the claim. It also buys them additional time to try and prove a legal denial of benefits.
Hire a Lawyer
Hiring a lawyer helps you manage case and benefits expectations. It can help you get the best results and protect you from unethical practices. Perhaps most importantly, hiring a workers compensation lawyer gives you peace of mind in a stressful situation and prevents you from making mistakes in court adversely impacting your compensation and medical coverage going forward. Since most workers compensation lawyers do not charge a fee until you receive your award it is a win/win situation for you if you have suffered a work related injury.