Personal Injuries at Work? Understanding the Maze of Worker’s Comp
Have you or someone you know suffered a personal injury at work? Did you know that, with few exceptions, you cannot sue your employer? Your primary source of recovery is through the worker’s compensation court system. Knowing your rights and those of your employer are critical to navigating the worker’s comp maze.
First, most personal injuries at the workplace fall into two categories. One is ACCIDENTAL and the other is OCCUPATIONAL. If you suffer a specific injury on a date certain (e.g. you suffer a knee injury on April 23, 2012) then your claim is accidental. If your injury is one that evolves over time and is not linked to a specific occurrence, then it is deemed occupational. Most claims are admitted by the employer’s insurance company although in some instances they are denied until proven. In each case a full investigation by all of the parties involved is required.
Typically, the worker that suffers personal injuries on the job is entitled to 3 types of benefits. The first is MEDICAL BENEFITS. Your employer and it’s insurance company are obligated to provide you with the medical treatment you need at absolutely no cost to you. This is totally different from any health insurance benefits you may also receive through work. Understand, however, that your employer’s insurance carrier is permitted to control the doctors and facilities that treat you. You are not, absent an emergency, permitted to treat on your own with the doctors of your own choosing. The worker’s comp insurance company, generally, won’t pay these bills.
The second is TEMPORARY WAGES. For as long as the doctors deem you unable to work you are entitled to receive two-thirds of your wages. Why 2/3 of the regular wages? That’s because the taxes are deducted in advance. Keep in mind, however, that these temporary wages do not include overtime, vacation pay or holiday wage differentials. Once the treating doctors decide that you are MMI (have reached maximum medical improvement) then temporary wages cease because you are deemed to be able to return to work and should try to do so.
The third is a PERMANENT AWARD. At some point you will be evaluated by physicians chosen by your attorney and those chosen by the attorney for your employer”s insurance company. The opinions as to permanent disability will be markedly different. Your lawyer, in conjunction with the Worker’s Compensation Judge, will work to achieve the best monetary recovery possible for you.
There are other benefits that are available to the worker that is injured at the workplace. These rights may include the right to reopen the case after the settlement to acquire more money, the right to acquire new or additonal medical treatment and the right to obtain an award of total disability. These are important and case specific benefits that are dependent upon individual facts. Don’t think the insurance company lawyer will proterct you. The only person that has your best intersts at heart is your lawyer. Understand the maze of workers’ comp, choose your lawyer wisely and recover the maximum amount allowable for your permanat personal injuries.