It can seem as though everywhere you look, there is an advert for a personal injury lawyer or a lawyer offering to take on your case if you’ve been injured at work.
When you are injured at work, it can be difficult to know what the right thing to do is. Most employers will offer you a payout of some kind, but it’s tough to know whether that payout is for a fair amount without having a good knowledge of the legal system. It’s also tough to work out which lawyers are really best placed to help you navigate the legal system if you don’t know exactly what to look for.
This article will give you a bit more information on what worker’s compensation claims are so that you can feel a little more informed when taking your next steps.
When can I make a claim for worker’s compensation?
While you are at work, your employer is responsible for taking any steps necessary to ensure your safety. This means that if you have been injured at work due to negligence on the part of your employer, you could be eligible for compensation.
Examples of employer negligence are things like:
- Not giving you adequate training to carry out your job safely.
- Not providing the right safety equipment.
- Asking you to work in an unsafe environment (e.g., around hazardous materials)
- Asking you to work for longer than is safe.
If you have become ill or injured at your job as a result of employer negligence, you have a right to compensation to cover your medical bills and cover for lost earnings due to your injury.
If you are injured while traveling for work, it can become a little less clear whether you would be eligible for compensation. There was a case where a businessman died from injuries that he sustained in a car accident while traveling for work, but because at the time of his injury, it was after working hours and he was driving to visit his son, it was deemed as not being the responsibility of the employer.
Is there a time limit on worker’s compensation?
The process for worker’s compensation will differ slightly from state to state; however, there will be similarities across the country. There will be time limits in all states, preventing claims for very old injuries from being filed.
For workers in Missouri, the process that must be followed by workers is:
- Report your injury to your employer within 30 days. Failure to do this could jeopardize your right to claim compensation. If possible, it’s a good idea to do this in writing as well as verbally so that you have a record. Email is perfect because it also has a time and date stamp.
- Your employer or their insurer will then provide you with medical care as needed. You should not be charged for this.
- In addition to medical care, you may also be eligible for disability benefits. If you believe this is the case for you, you should discuss it with your employer or insurer.
If you are not happy with the outcome at this stage, you are able to appeal the decision. This must happen within 20 days of the initial date of the award.
In Missouri, the statute of limitations on filing a workers compensation claim with the Division of Workers compensation is two years. So, while you must make the initial claim to your employer within 30 days, you have two years to finalize the claim.
What happens after I make a claim?
Employers are required by law to have insurance for worker’s compensation, so when you make a claim with your employer initially, it will go to their insurance company.
As Brown and Crouppen note, dealing with insurance companies can be frustrating because their goal isn’t to ensure that workers are looked after. Rather, their goal is to minimize the size of payouts for employers.
This can mean that employees are offered less than they are entitled to as a settlement amount. Without the help of someone who has a good knowledge of the legal system and of worker’s compensation, in particular, it can be difficult to know whether you are really getting what you are entitled to.
Is my job at risk if I take legal action against my employer?
This is the worry that a lot of workers have; they feel as though they need to accept the first settlement that they are offered even if they feel that it isn’t fair because they are worried about jeopardizing their employment prospects for the future.
There are worker’s rights that protect you from discrimination if you do decide to take legal action. The problem is, if your employer did decide to terminate your employment or punish you in some other way for your decision to take legal action, it’s very difficult to prove their reasons.
So, in theory, no, your job isn’t at risk, but it is a good idea to get advice from a legal professional if you are contesting a workers compensation settlement because they can ensure that everything possible is done to safeguard your employment.
Do I need a workers comp lawyer?
Engaging with a qualified and experienced workers comp lawyer is a good idea if you’re going to be disputing your worker’s comp settlement because then you can be assured that what you are asking for is reasonable and that you are taking all the necessary steps to protect yourself.
There are law firms specializing in workers comp who will offer to review your case for free and advise you of whether it’s worth proceeding. Some will even work on a contingency basis, which means they won’t take any payment unless you win your case. This makes hiring a lawyer a viable option because you can be assured of getting good advice without the risk of leaving yourself out of pocket.
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