Pursuing Compensation After a Workplace Accident
October 05, 2023
Workplace accidents can be both traumatic and disorienting. They can lead to extensive physical injuries, financial strain, and emotional distress. When facing such hardships, it’s crucial to understand your rights and the legal options available to ensure you receive the compensation you rightfully deserve. At DLopez Law Firm, we specialize in representing victims of workplace accidents, guiding them through the complex landscape of workers’ compensation claims.
Understanding Workers’ Compensation
Before diving into the nuances of pursuing compensation, it’s essential to understand what workers’ compensation is. Essentially, it is a form of insurance provided by employers to compensate employees who are injured while on the job. This insurance offers benefits to the injured worker, without the need to prove fault.
Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation
Generally, if you are an employee who sustains an injury while at work or because of your job duties, you are eligible for workers’ compensation. Independent contractors or freelancers typically do not qualify, but there are exceptions. Some professions might also be excluded from standard workers’ compensation policies. Hence, always consult with a legal expert to understand your specific situation.
Benefits under Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation is a system designed to provide benefits to employees who are injured or become ill as a result of their job. It’s essential for workers to understand these benefits in case they ever need to utilize them. Here’s a closer look at the various benefits offered under workers’ compensation:
- Medical Benefits:
- Coverage: Workers’ compensation typically covers all necessary and reasonable medical treatment related to the workplace injury or illness. This includes doctor visits, surgeries, prescription medications, physical therapy, and any other treatments deemed necessary.
- Choice of Doctor: Depending on the state and the specifics of the policy, the injured worker might be required to see a physician from an approved list or may have the freedom to choose their own.
- Temporary Disability Benefits:
- Coverage: If an injured worker is unable to work for a temporary period due to their injury or illness, they may be entitled to a portion of their lost wages.
- Calculation: This is often calculated as a percentage of the worker’s average weekly wage.
- Permanent Disability Benefits:
- Coverage: If the workplace injury or illness results in a permanent impairment, either partial or total, the worker may receive permanent disability benefits. This is compensation for the worker’s decreased ability to earn a living due to the permanent effects of the injury.
- Evaluation: The amount and duration of these benefits are typically determined by a physician’s assessment and a defined rating schedule.
- Vocational Rehabilitation:
- Coverage: If the injury prevents the worker from returning to their previous role, they may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation. This includes job training, counseling, job placement assistance, and other services to help the worker find suitable employment.
- Limitations: Some states may have caps on the amount or duration of vocational rehabilitation benefits.
- Death Benefits:
- Coverage: If a worker dies as a result of their workplace injury or illness, their dependents (like a spouse or children) might be entitled to death benefits.
- Components: This can include compensation for funeral expenses and a portion of the deceased worker’s lost potential earnings.
- Supplemental Job Displacement Benefits:
- Coverage: In some jurisdictions, if a worker cannot return to their old job and the employer doesn’t offer alternative work, they might receive a voucher to help pay for retraining or skill enhancement.
- Mileage Reimbursement:
- Coverage: Workers might be reimbursed for travel expenses related to medical appointments or treatments associated with the workplace injury.
It’s essential to note that the specifics of workers’ compensation benefits can vary by state and jurisdiction. Workers should familiarize themselves with their state’s regulations and consult with a workers’ compensation attorney to understand their rights and entitlements fully.
Steps to Pursue Compensation
Pursuing compensation after a workplace accident is a structured process. While specific steps can vary based on jurisdiction and the particularities of the case, the following is a general guideline on how injured workers should proceed:
- Immediate Medical Attention
- Seek medical treatment immediately after the injury. Prioritize your health first and foremost.
- Inform the healthcare provider that the injury is work-related so it’s documented properly.
- Notify Your Employer
- Report the injury to your supervisor or HR department as soon as possible. Some jurisdictions have strict deadlines for reporting to be eligible for benefits.
- Provide a written account of how, when, and where the injury occurred.
- Document Everything
- Keep detailed records of all medical treatments, including doctor visits, medications, therapies, etc.
- Maintain a diary of your symptoms and any limitations they cause.
- Keep track of days missed from work and any related expenses.
- File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
- Obtain the necessary forms from your employer or the workers’ compensation board in your jurisdiction.
- Fill out the claim forms accurately and thoroughly. Ensure all relevant medical documentation is attached.
- Consult an Attorney
- Navigating the workers’ compensation process can be challenging. A seasoned attorney, like those at DLopez Law Firm, can guide you, ensuring all paperwork is correct, and help maximize your benefits.
- Follow Medical Advice
- Adhere to the treatment plan prescribed by your healthcare provider.
- Attend all scheduled medical appointments. Failing to do so can be seen as non-compliance and may affect your claim.
- Stay Informed
- Cooperate with any investigations or evaluations. This might include independent medical examinations requested by the insurance company.
- Keep open communication with your employer and their insurance company.
- Return to Work
- If your doctor clears you to return to work, even with restrictions, cooperate to find suitable employment within those restrictions.
- Refusing a suitable job offer can lead to a termination of benefits.
- Appeal if Necessary
- If your claim is denied, or if you believe the benefits awarded are insufficient, you have the right to appeal.
- This process may involve presenting your case in front of a judge or a board. Having an attorney can be especially valuable at this stage.
- Stay Updated on Claim Status
- Regularly check the status of your claim.
- Address any issues promptly to prevent delays in receiving benefits.
- Many workers’ compensation cases result in a settlement. This is a negotiated amount that is agreed upon by both parties in lieu of ongoing benefits.
- Discuss with your attorney to understand the pros and cons of accepting a settlement.
- Close the Claim
Once all treatments are completed and any disputes are resolved, the claim will be closed. Ensure you have all the documentation in case there are future complications or disputes.
- Not Reporting in Time: Delaying the reporting of your injury can jeopardize your claim.
- Not Following Medical Advice: Always follow the medical advice given. If you don’t, it could be argued that you aggravated your injury or didn’t take necessary steps to heal.
- Settling Too Soon: While a quick settlement might seem appealing, it could short-change you. Once you settle, you cannot claim further compensation even if complications arise later.
When to Consider a Personal Injury Lawsuit
In some situations, you might have grounds for a personal injury lawsuit instead of, or in addition to, a workers’ compensation claim. This can be the case when:
- Your injury was caused by a third party, not your employer.
- Your employer intentionally caused your injury.
- Your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer at DLopez Law Firm for a Free Consultation About Your Case Today
Workplace accidents can be life-altering. Understanding your rights and the compensation avenues available is crucial. While workers’ compensation offers a safety net, navigating its complexities can be challenging. Rely on the expertise of seasoned professionals like DLopez Law Firm, to guide you through the process, ensuring you get the compensation you rightfully deserve.