According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), every year, more than four million workers are seriously injured at work, and approximately 4,500 more die. Thousands more die due to work-related illnesses such as lung disease or cancer. The economic toll is so high it cannot even be calculated.
Workers’ compensation was established to help injured workers, as well as survivors of those who died as a result of their injuries, receive compensation for their medical expenses and lost wages. It is considered a no-fault system in that injured workers can collect their damages without having to prove their employer was negligent. Additionally, the employer may not prevent the worker from collecting by claiming the injury was the fault of the employee. Sounds easy. Not so easy in the real world.
Maximize your Workers Comp Benefits
If you were injured on the job or have a work-related illness, you may believe you can just fill out a claim form for compensation and, voila! The insurer will put money in your bank. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation insurers have a reputation for making things difficult. Remember, insurance adjusters work for the insurance company and their goal is to pay out the least amount of money possible.
As soon as possible after your injury, report it to your employer. In most cases, if you do not report it to your supervisor or employer within 30 days, your claim will be denied and you will have to explain why you waited. The next step is to get medical attention and fill out your form for compensation.
Most consultants suggest you consult an attorney who can help you with both obtaining medical care and treatment, applying to the insurer for your workers’ compensation benefits and working with you to maximize your compensation. An attorney can help you with many aspects of your claim that will increase the chances that your initial application will be granted. Some hurdles you may encounter include:
- The initial application process. Workers’ compensation is regulated by both the state and federal governments. Some employers require you to fill out an accident report. Your application must include details of how the accident happened and the injuries you suffered. If your report to the insurer does not match the report you gave your employer, your claim will likely be denied. You may have just omitted information from one report that was included in the other, but the insurer will gladly use this as an excuse to deny your claim.
- Insurer’s request for your statement. Insurers will ask you to make a recorded statement about how the accident happened. Do not agree to do this without having your lawyer present. Your words may be twisted and used against you and you are not legally required to comply with this request.
- Medical treatment and records. Adjusters seem to enjoy finding a discrepancy in your initial injury report and your medical records. An attorney will assist you in making sure you give your medical provider all the details about how you were hurt and make certain you specify the accident happened at work.
- Settlement offer. Insurers are notorious for making low settlement offers at a time the injured worker is vulnerable and needs money. The offer generally does not take into consideration the need for future medical treatment and future lost wages.
- Appealing the denial or reduction of your claim. Approximately 80 percent of workers who receive a reduction or denial of the claim just shrug and accept it. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will go through the appellate process in order to continue your quest for the compensation to which you are legally entitled.
At Appel Law Firm, LLP, we offer a free consultation. We will evaluate your case and assist you at every stage of the process. Your choice between pursuing your claim on your own or choosing to proceed with the assistance of experienced attorneys may make the difference in whether or not you qualify for workers compensation benefits. The law offers no guarantees, but you can increase your chances of having your claim approved if you work with attorneys who are skilled in the way the system works.