Work-place injuries are an all-too-common problem. While most states require businesses to have workers’ compensation insurance policies of some type, the rules for when and how a business should acquire this type of insurance varies significantly. Texas in particular does not require any private business to purchase this form of insurance, making it much more difficult for those who were hurt on the job to gain access to proper compensation.
Depending on your occupation, you may be at a higher risk of getting an on the job injury. Most construction and maintenance workers understand that the risks for injury are high. However, many workers fail to realize that the agriculture, forestry, fishing and hunting sector has some of the highest rates of workplace injuries, according to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Even when businesses have workmans’ compensation insurance policies, it can sometimes be difficult getting a payout. In those cases, acquiring a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer may be your best chance at getting the compensation you deserve.
What Is Workers’ Compensation?
The term “workers’ compensation” is often confused by both business owners and workers alike. One of the best ways to define workmans’, or workers’ compensation is to explain what it does not do as well as what it does.
Workers’ compensation is not a health care insurance policy. This is a common misconception, but an important one to clear up. Workers’ compensation is designed to cover lost wages as a result of an on the job injury. Specifically, if that injury makes a worker unable to complete his or her assigned duties at work, it is likely that worker will have to stay home until recovery is complete. Some employers will find ways to supplement that worker’s time with other tasks. This is not always the case with all employers and all jobs. Lost wages as a result of a workplace injury can be extremely damaging. Workers’ compensation was designed to ensure that workers are not unfairly disadvantaged due to an injury they incurred as a result of attempting to do their contracted work.
Workers’ compensation can cover some medical expenses. Although it is not a supplement for a health care plan, workers’ compensation will often cover medical expenses that may otherwise not be covered by a normal health insurance policy, and that are a direct result of the injury. Worker’s comp is designed to ensure that any aspect of the injury incurred while on the job are covered, to include lost wages and medical coverage.
Collecting workers’ compensation means you cannot sue your employer. It is important for those trying to collect workers’ compensation to understand that by agreeing to collect this compensation, you may not then sue your employer for damages. The point of workers’ compensation insurance is to find a mutually beneficial solution for employers and their employees in the case of an employee who is hurt on the job.
Workers’ compensation may cover the cost for retraining and other related expenses. One of the key benefits of workers’ compensation is that it is designed to help workers get back to work. By covering lost wages and medical expenses, it helps ensure that the individual is able to meet their financial obligations while they are healing from a workplace injury. Included in this is the cost of retraining in the case where a worker’s injuries prevent them from returning to the type of work they were contracted to do when the injury took place.
Why Seek A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
Although workers’ compensation insurance is guaranteed by law in almost every state, workers sometimes face an uphill battle proving that their injuries fit the strict criteria for receiving this benefit. A good workers’ comp lawyer can help those who have suffered an on the job injury navigate the legal process required to gain access to these funds. There are several reasons why you may need a skilled workers’ comp attorney, including:
- Rejection of your claim by your employer
- Slow payouts
- Long recovery times that prevent you from returning to work
- Complexity regarding your injury and how it occurred
- Overall confusion over whether your injury qualifies for compensation
- Your Social Security benefits result in lower payouts
- You have additional claims to make against other parties
- Hostility or retaliation from your employer as a result of a workers’ compensation filing
A talented workmans’ compensation lawyer will know how to handle these claims, and more. You should expect your workers’ compensation attorney to be well-versed in the state laws governing workers’ compensation. That attorney should also have a firm grasp of how to file the proper paperwork, and with whom, to get you the best results.
A skilled work injury lawyer will also understand the many complexities of the insurance policies and the companies that manage them, and can help you determine whether or not you have a case, as well as how much in workers’ compensation benefits you are owed.
When searching for a workers’ compensation lawyer, you will want someone who is:
- Experienced in this particular field of law
- Transparent with you regarding the law, what you may be owed, and the cost of their services
- Professional in how they deal with you, your employer, and anyone else related to your case
- Communicative and quick to respond whenever you need them
- Creative in their approach to working through the difficulties of your claim
- Determined to ensure you receive exactly what you are owed
How Do You Find A Good Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
Many of your friends, family members or colleagues may have experience receiving workers’ compensation. Because so many claims are rejected by employers, chances are anyone you know who has received workers’ compensation in the past likely utilized the services of a skilled attorney. Asking around should net a few positive results.
Alternatively, you may want to look through online directories and databases for a good attorney. There are many websites that rank lawyers by their skillset and experience, and that do allow for client feedback. This helps provide you with the information you need, so you will know whether the workers comp attorney you are viewing is truly as skilled as their profile and website claim.
Still, once you find a workers’ comp lawyer, you will want to ask them a few questions to gauge their knowledge and experience. Here are a few ideas for preliminary questions that will help you properly vet the attorney you find:
- How many years have you been handling workers’ compensation claims?
- How much of your practice is devoted to workers’ comp?
- Can you represent me throughout the entire workers’ comp process, including at administrative hearings and appeals, and in circuit court?
- Can you provide me with any references, whether former clients or colleagues in the legal community?
- Will you be working on my case personally, or will legal assistants and paralegals handle the bulk of the work?
- If I call your office with a question about my case, will I speak to you or a legal assistant?
- Do you also represent employers and insurance companies in workers’ comp cases, or only injured workers?
- Are you a member of any professional organizations in the field of workers’ compensation law? Are you board-certified in workers’ comp?
- Can you explain to me how a workers’ compensation claim proceeds through the system? How do attorneys’ fees work?
- Will I be charged for litigation-related expenses, and if so, what do those expenses include? Will I be charged even if my case is unsuccessful?
- Do you arrange for clients to receive consultative medical examinations with appropriate specialists? Under what circumstances?
- How do you estimate the value of my case? What are the strengths and weakness of my case?
Answer to these questions should be an integral part of your search process. Any attorney who provides answers that are not to your liking for some of these questions is likely not going to be an attorney you want to work with. It’s important to remember that you do not have to choose just any lawyer. There are many workers’ compensation lawyers out there. It’s best to be active in conducting your research and asking the right questions in order to get the right person for the job.
Finding the Right Doctor
Although you may have received medical treatment long before you started seeking workers’ compensation, many workplace injuries do require long-term, on-going treatment. If this happens, you are going to want a doctor that you know you can trust, who will help you get back on your feet and back to work.
Many work injury lawyers have strong connections within the medical field and have many doctors to whom they commonly refer their clients. Many will also have a good understanding of what kind of doctor you need when you go over the details of your injury with them.
If you are currently dealing with the medical expense benefits of your workers’ compensation, or are wondering how to find the right doctor for the job, here are some question you might ask your attorney:
Who picks the doctors? You may want to know if you are allowed to use your own doctor when you receive your benefits, or if the workers’ compensation policy requires a specific doctor under the plan.
How much will I be paid? As workers’ compensation does cover medical expenses incurred as a result of a workplace injury, you may be wondering how much of your expenses will be covered.
When can my checks start? Medical bills will start piling up fairly quickly after an on the job injury. It’s important to know when you can expect to start receiving your payouts.
How will I get to my doctor’s appointment? If your injuries are so severe that you cannot drive yourself to your appointments, you may need to secure alternative transportation. A good lawyer will have experience and advice related to this question.
When will my checks stop? Knowing when your workers’ compensation ends is a common question. A good workers’ comp attorney will be able to help you determine how long your compensation will last.
If you believe that you are owed workers’ compensation, it’s important that you do not delay. Although it is still possible to collect compensation even after your injury has passed and you have already returned to work, it becomes increasingly difficult to prove that your injury warranted compensation. You will want to act immediately in order to ensure that you receive the fair compensation owed under your employer’s workers’ compensation policy.