Workers' Compensation Law
Do I Need a Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
In this article
- Make Sure Your Workers’ Compensation Claims Are Filed on Time
- Advocate For a Fair Settlement
- Handle Complex Injury and Permanent Disability Cases
- Attorneys Understand Why Workers’ Compensation Claims Are Denied
- Workers’ Compensation Appeals Can Be Daunting
- Injured Workers Sometimes Face Other Legal Issues
State workers’ compensation programs provide financial benefits to employees injured in work-related accidents. Injured or sick workers may apply for workers’ compensation benefits without first speaking with a workers’ comp attorney. However, dealing with the claims process can be a frustrating experience. The deadlines for submitting claims paperwork can be strictly enforced, and even minor errors, omissions, or oversights could lead to applications being delayed or denied
Some workers’ comp insurance carriers reject workplace injury claims, leaving the worker without medical care or wage payments. An attorney can represent you to ensure you get disability benefits and medical treatment. Only a small percentage of denied workers’ compensation claims are appealed. Attorneys have an ethical duty to advocate vigorously on behalf of their clients, and filing appeals paperwork promptly is an integral part of meeting this duty.
Workers’ compensation laws and injury claims are different in every state. If you have questions about your state’s workers’ compensation system, contact a workers’ compensation lawyer in your area for legal advice.
State laws require injured workers to notify their employers about work injuries or illnesses and submit workers’ compensation claims paperwork within strictly enforced time limits. The amount of time workers are given varies from state to state, with most states giving between 30 and 90 days to make the necessary notifications and submit the relevant documents. However, some states have a much shorter timeline.
For example, in Wyoming, workers must notify their employer immediately, and no later than 72 hours (3 days) after suffering a work-related injury. However, in Connecticut, workers generally have one year from the date of an accidental injury to file a workers’ comp claim.
Workers’ compensation attorneys ensure that applications are correctly completed and submitted on time. Your injury lawyer can also help gather other documents to support workplace accident claims, including medical records and medical expenses.
Workers’ compensation settlements go into effect once they have been reviewed and approved by a judge. However, insurance adjusters and employers have plenty of opportunities to offer injured workers less than they are entitled to. When an attorney accompanies a worker, the workers’ compensation insurance representative may think twice about offering an unfair settlement amount.
Attorneys familiar with workers’ compensation laws understand the workers’ comp benefits available and what their clients are entitled to. They can negotiate firmly to reach an equitable and fair settlement offer.
The workers’ compensation claims of employees who have suffered catastrophic injuries can be costly for employers and insurance companies. This includes severe injuries where the worker has a partial disability or permanent disability. These types of workers’ compensation cases are carefully scrutinized. It is not uncommon for employers to allege that the injuries were not work-related or accuse their injured workers of drinking or using drugs. Experienced workers’ comp attorneys may anticipate these tactics and gather the evidence necessary to win.
Workers’ compensation claims can be denied for several reasons, but this does not mean that affected employees will be denied the benefits they need to make ends meet until they can return to work. Workers’ comp lawyers may file appeals when claims have been denied unfairly for several reasons, such as:
- Deadline issues: Workers’ compensation acts often have strict deadlines. Attorneys may submit proof that procedural steps were followed when claims have been denied because deadlines were allegedly missed or notifications were not made promptly.
- Employer disputes the facts: When employers claim that accidents were not work-related, attorneys could base their appeals on accident reports, OSHA or police investigations; and the statements made by injured workers, supervisors, paramedics, and hospital staff. Doctors could provide details about the nature of injuries or illnesses, and work schedules or time sheets may be used to establish that injured employees were hurt while on the job.
- Non-covered injuries: Attorneys may demand compelling supporting evidence when employers claim that injuries are not covered under workers’ compensation laws because they were self-inflicted or suffered while workers were violating company policies or breaking state or federal laws.
- Workers’ comp fraud: In some cases, your employer may have reported you to the state for workers’ compensation fraud, even for an innocent mistake. A workers’ comp attorney can help you avoid problems on your workers’ comp claim to avoid fraud charges.
Going through a workers’ compensation hearing can be an intimidating experience for injured workers, even when the law is on their side. These are adversarial proceedings and can last from a few hours to several days, and judges may show little patience for employees who seem unprepared or lack the evidence needed to back up their claims.
Experienced attorneys who are familiar with these hearings may help their clients to prepare for the questioning they will face and seek to keep matters moving by presenting their workers’ comp cases supported by appropriate documentation such as:
- Medical records to document injuries and treatments
- Payroll records to establish lost income
- Personnel records to verify that injuries were work-related
- Disciplinary records to counter arguments of misconduct
- Medical bills and details of other job injury expenses
It is not uncommon for an employer to try to dissuade an employee from filing a claim for benefits by retaliating or threatening to fire a worker who does. Most states have laws prohibiting this type of retaliation, and the legal representation of a workers’ comp attorney can help protect your rights.
Filing a workers’ compensation claim may not be an injured worker’s last contact with the legal system. Workers injured in accidents caused by subcontractors or other non-employer third parties may seek compensation by filing civil personal injury lawsuits.
Injured workers may also be able to sue their employers for accidents caused by recklessness so severe that it amounted to intentional injuries. Injured workers who pursue their claims in court may be entitled to recover additional compensation for pain and suffering or punitive damages. As always, it’s best to speak with a local attorney that is skilled in this practice area.