If you’ve recently been injured on the job, or suffered through some type of accident that’s caused you to miss work or have to pay hefty hospital bills, you’re probably already starting to sift through the piles and piles of workers compensation paperwork.
But, here’s the most important question for employees dealing with workers compensation – do you have a lawyer, and do you need one? How do you know when to hire a lawyer for workers compensation? What’s the best time to hire a lawyer? And, what are your options for when you experience issues with your company during the workers compensation process? Can your lawyer help with that?
We can answer those questions, and more, to help you understand what your rights are, what you’re entitled to from your company, and everything that a lawyer can help you with and advocate for you during the workers compensation process, especially if you’re experiencing issues with your company.
Let’s start from the top. What is workers’ compensation, and how do you get it?
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides wage replacement and medical benefits to workers who have been injured on the job. Of course, this means that the employee waives their right to sue to employer for negligence in the workplace.
For some employees, there’s never any trouble or pushback from their company with their insurance claim. This is especially common if:
- Your injury is minor.
- You didn’t miss any or much work due to the injury.
- Your employer admits fault and is helpful throughout the process.
- You don’t have a pre-existing condition that might have made your injury even worse.
There’s many situations that can lead an employee to have a positive experience with their employer that allows them to forego hiring an attorney at all. However, employees shouldn’t automatically assume that their company is going to help them through their situation and cooperate through the workers compensation event.
You should hire a lawyer right at the start of your workers’ compensation process.
This may seem like a bold move, especially if you’re not sure how it’s going to go, but it’s the best move for anyone submitting a claim and going through the process with your company’s legal department and the insurance company. Why?
- Paperwork. Yes, everyone’s favorite pastime. The paperwork alone is overwhelming and difficult to navigate. You want someone who can help you sort through things, keep track of medical documents, insurance forms, bills, and other documents to make sure you have everything you need to get your workers compensation claim through the system in a timely manner. And, your lawyer knows what’s reasonable in terms of a timeline – if you’re ever unsure or feel like your claim is taking a long time to process, you’re probably right. But, your lawyer will be able to keep both parties on track and keep things moving.
- To ensure your claim doesn’t get rejected or lost in the shuffle. Many times, an insurance company will say no to claims that are perfectly valid, just because they can. They may not expect anyone to appeal on the behalf of the person who submitted it, but if you have a lawyer then you can easily get it appealed. Without a lawyer, you may not know how to file an appeal, whether or not you can, and you may not know how to win your case.
- To protect you against retaliation. You might not expect the company that you serve day in and day out to retaliate against you for filing a claim, but it absolutely happens to employees all across the country every day. By hiring a lawyer from the start, you can ensure that any punitive action that’s been taken against you, such as firing, cutting of your hours, or demotion after you file a claim is fought by your lawyer.
Okay, so you didn’t hire a lawyer right at the start of your claim process. When should you make the decision to hire one? What should spark the decision for you?
- If your claim is denied. If your workers compensation claim has been denied by insurance, you need to hire a lawyer. This can help speed up the process and make sure that you win your appeal and get the benefits you need.
- If your employer or colleagues are being dishonest about the incident. This seems unlikely, but it happens often with people filing claims. The employer, or colleagues who might have witnessed the incident, are persuaded to lie about what they saw or heard in order to protect the company. If this happens, you need a lawyer by your side who can help you through it. Instead of confronting your employer or colleagues on your own, you’ll have an advocate who can take on the challenge.
- If your benefits are being reduced. If your employer or insurance company is paying your workers’ compensation benefits on a limited basis, this is absolutely against the law and you should fight this with everything you’ve got. Your insurance company may claim that some medical treatments you require aren’t actually needed, or that you can come back to work, even if a doctor hasn’t cleared you to return. If this happens, you need to hire a lawyer immediately.
There’s a lot that can go wrong during the process of getting a workers’ compensation claim filed and when the benefits actually appear for you. But, there’s a lot that can go right if you have the right partner and advocate by your side, fighting for your rights and what’s best for you. You deserve the best care after an accident or injury at work, so it’s essential to hire a lawyer from the start so that you can receive that great care.