Workers' Compensation

When to Hire a Workers’ Comp Lawyer

All employees deserve safe and fair workplace conditions.Sadly, work accidents remain a serious problem throughout the United States. According to data published by the National Safety Council (NSC), approximately 4.5 million Americans were injured on the job in 2017 alone. Most workers are covered by a state-based no-fault workers’ compensation insurance program. Through workers’ comp, an injured employee can recover medical benefits and wage-loss compensation — regardless of whether their employer was to blame for their accident. Not all injured workers need a lawyer to get their benefits. If you suffered a minor injury and you missed little to no time at work, you will most likely be able to handle your case on your own. That being said, for more complex claims, it is imperative that injured workers hire an experienced Missouri workers’ comp attorney or Arkansas workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible after their accident. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today for help with your case. We’ll explain when you should get a lawyer for workers’ compensation. We’ll take care of everything else. Submit the short form below to schedule a consultation. Should I Get a Lawyer for Workers’ Comp? Five Questions to Ask 1. Did You Suffer Severe Injuries? You should hire a workers’ comp lawyer. In the unfortunate event that you were forced to miss extended time on the job (more than a week) or if you are expecting to feel long-term or permanent effects from your injury, then you need a workers’ compensation attorney. Employers and insurers are far more aggressive in handling claims involving serious injuries. It is crucial that you are able to present a strong, persuasive case so that you can obtain a full and fair workers’ compensation settlement. With severe injuries, it is generally best to hire a workers’ comp lawyer when you submit your initial claim. 2. Are You Preparing to File a Social Security Disability Claim? You should hire a workers’ comp attorney. After a serious accident, an injured worker may be entitled to receive both Social Security disability benefits and workers’ compensation benefits. Pursuing these types of overlapping claims can be complicated. If your workers’ comp settlement is not structured in the proper manner, it could actually impair your ability to recover the maximum available Social Security disability benefits. Do not go it alone. You should consult with a Social Security disability lawyer who has experience representing clients who are also bringing workers’ comp claims. 3. Were You Offered an Inadequate Settlement? You should hire a lawyer that handles workers’ compensation cases. It is important to remember that insurers want to settle work injury cases for the lowest dollar amount possible. Do not accept an unfair, low settlement offer. You should be granted a settlement that offers you the full available financial support for your medical care, long-term rehabilitative costs, lost wages, diminished earning capacity, and any permanent disability or impairment. Your attorney will represent you during settlement negotiations with insurance company representatives. 4. Was Your Workers’ Comp Claim Denied? You should hire a workers’ comp attorney. Workers’ compensation claims are denied for a wide range of different reasons. Even though workers’ comp benefits are paid out on a no-fault basis, it can still be challenging for injured employees to get access to the full and fair financial benefits that they rightfully deserve. If your workers’ comp claim was denied in Arkansas, Missouri, Kansas, Oklahoma, or anywhere else in the United States, do not give up without a fight. Get your workers’ comp denial letter into the hands of an experienced attorney immediately. They will help you take the next steps needed to move your case forward. 5. Did a Third Party Contribute to Your Injuries? You should hire a workers’ comp lawyer. Workers’ comp is an exclusive legal remedy. Generally speaking, injured workers cannot file a personal injury claim against their employer — even if their employer was negligent in causing their workplace accident. That being said, injured workers do retain the right to file personal injury lawsuits against negligent third parties. If any party other than your employer — another contractor, a property owner, a manufacturer, etc. — contributed to your accident, you should call an experienced work injury attorney for immediate assistance. Additional financial compensation may be available. You may be eligible to bring both a workers’ compensation claim and a personal injury lawsuit. Contact Us At the Cottrell Law Office, our skilled workers’ comp lawyers are strong, committed advocates for injured workers. If you or your loved one was hurt on the job, we are prepared to help. To set up a free, no-obligation initial consultation, please contact our legal team or call (800) 364-8305 today to get started. With offices in Rogers, AR and Joplin, MO, we represent injured workers throughout Arkansas, Missouri, Oklahoma, and Kansas.

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Workers' Compensation

Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Overview

Oklahoma workers’ compensation is a program that provides medical benefits and wage replacement to employees who suffer an injury or illness while working. Families of an employee killed during an employment-related incident may also receive Oklahoma workers’ comp benefits.  In this article, we’ll provide an overview of Oklahoma workers’ comp laws, benefits you can receive, types of injuries covered, and settlement calculations.   What Is Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation? Workers’ compensation is a way to be compensated for an employment-related injury or illness without having to file a lawsuit in court against an employer. An employer purchases workers’ compensation insurance from a provider, and when an employee is injured, he or she is paid through the insurance carrier. The employee receives benefits by agreeing not to take legal action against the employer.  Both federal and state agencies offer workers’ compensation programs. Federal workers’ compensation covers only federal employees, coal mine workers, and longshoremen through the U.S. Department of Labor. All other types of employees must go through the state in which they work to receive benefits.  Workers’ comp in Oklahoma is overseen by the Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Commission (OWCC).  How Does Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Work? When an employee sustains an injury or illness while working, he or she must notify the employer as soon as possible. The employer then reports the injury to its’ workers’ compensation insurance provider. Once the employer, or employer’s insurance carrier, selects a doctor, the injured employee seeks medical care from that doctor. Payments and compensation are largely based around the doctor’s evaluation and treatment. There is no requirement to prove the employer was negligent or liable for an employee to receive compensation. In other words, it is a no-fault system, meaning fault is irrelevant to the employee’s eligibility for benefits. OWCC Claims Process Often, the employer, through the workers’ compensation insurance carrier, provides the necessary medical care and benefits to the employee. However, in the event there is a dispute, the employee can file a claim with the OWCC.  After the initial claim, the employee may request an opportunity to be heard in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ). If granted, all parties will gather evidence, present it in front of the ALJ, and obtain an order. Having an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to walk you through the claims process and represent you in front of the ALJ can be very beneficial.  Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Laws  The Administrative Workers’ Compensation Act (AWCA) is the governing body of law for work-related injuries occurring on or after February 1, 2014, in Oklahoma.  Rights and Responsibilities of Employees  Although workers’ comp payments are available, employees must take certain steps to secure their benefits.  Eligible employees Almost every Oklahoma employee is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits under AWCA if injured on the job. However, he following types of employees are exempt from workers’ comp in Oklahoma:  Agricultural or horticultural workers whose employer has an annual payroll of less than $100,000; Federal employees, Independent contractors, Sole proprietors, and Employees of small family businesses. Keep in mind that there are additional types of exempt employees. Visit the OWCC for more information. Right to medical treatment The employer must provide reasonable and necessary treatment within five days of receiving notice of your work-related injury or illness. The employer or the workers’ compensation insurance carrier may select the medical care provider. If your employer fails to provide proper medical treatment, you have the right to choose your own physician at the employer’s expense. Reporting responsibilities   The employee must report the injury to the employer within 30 days of the incident. Failure to report within the timeframe could cause the employee to lose the right to compensation. An employee’s benefits could also be jeopardized if he or she does not follow the doctor’s orders and treatment plan. Types of Injuries Covered Oklahoma workers’ comp does not cover every injury that occurs on the job. The following are some examples of injuries that your employer may not provide benefits for: Injuries sustained while in a parking lot or other area adjacent to the employer’s place of business; Injuries caused by pre-existing conditions; Injuries incurred while under the influence of drugs or alcohol; Injuries sustained during social or recreational activities; Mental injuries, unless they were caused by a corresponding physical injury; and Injuries endured while on a work break, unless the injury happens inside the employer’s facility. There are additional limitations and exceptions beyond this list. Benefits Available Under Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation There are a number of benefits an employee may receive through workers’ comp. Oklahoma workers’ compensation provides the following benefits to injured workers: Payments for lost wages; Costs of medical care related to the injury or illness; Compensation for permanent disabilities, within the legal limits; Death benefits for family members of workers who died from a work-related injury; and Vocational retraining for employees who cannot return to their previous occupation. The types and amounts of benefits an employee will receive depends on the severity of the injury and how it impacts the employee’s ability to continue working. Retaliation and Discrimination by an Employer Under the AWCA, an employer cannot terminate an employee while on temporary disability simply because the employee is absent from work or because the employer does not want to pay the benefits. Once the temporary disability time expires, the employer can discharge the employee if their position is no longer available or if a physician determines that the employee cannot perform his or her job. The AWCA also prohibits an employer from retaliating or discriminating against an employee solely because he or she does any of the following: Files a claim under AWCA; Seeks legal representation from a lawyer for a claim made under AWCA; Initiates, or causes someone else to initiate, a claim under AWCA; or Testifies in a proceeding under AWCA. If you believe your employer has retaliated or discriminated against you, you have the right to be heard by the OWCC.  Oklahoma Workers’ Compensation Settlements Most workers’ compensation claims […]

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Workers' Compensation

Missouri Workers’ Compensation Chart

In this article, we will help you understand how to calculate workers’ compensation benefits in Missouri. Missouri has specific calculations to determine workers’ compensation benefits available to employees. In the state of Missouri, employers are liable for accidental employee injuries, including cases of fault and negligence. There are different equations for each benefit offered. Our workers’ compensation lawyers in Missouri will explain. If you have any questions or need assistance with your claim, please don’t hesitate to contact our firm by submitting the online form or calling (800) 364-8305. How to Calculate the Average Weekly Wage Each section of the Missouri workers’ comp body chart uses the average weekly wage to determine benefits. The average weekly wage is the total wages earned 13 weeks before the injury divided by 13. For employees that worked less than 13 weeks before the injury, it is total wages earned divided by the number of weeks worked. For example, if John Doe received $7,865 in the 13 weeks leading up to his injury, his average weekly wage is $605. This number determines the rate of compensation, which is usually two-thirds of the average weekly wage. After calculating the average weekly wage, it is easy to use the MO workers’ comp chart. Calculating Permanent Partial Disability in Missouri The MO work comp chart determines the Permanent Partial Disability award amount using the rate of compensation, level, and disability percentage. Level indicates the area of the body affected by the injury. The Missouri workers’ compensation chart assigns level values to each body part. If there is no specific level for the injured part, beneficiaries sometimes claim a whole-body disability (called “Entire Person” on the chart). Meanwhile, a medical expert determines the disability percentage. The calculation for permanent partial disability uses these three values: (Rate of Compensation) x (Level) x (Disability Percentage) = (Award Amount) Temporary Total Disability Missouri workers’ compensation includes benefits for employees suffering from a temporary work-related injury.  Temporary Total Disability awards workers lost earnings when they miss work due to injury recovery. This benefit compensates an employee if they cannot work for more than three consecutive days. TTD pays benefits until the employee returns to work or attains maximum medical improvement, or MMI. Missouri Permanent Total Disability and Death Benefits When a work injury results in death or severe disability, the Missouri workers’ compensation chart helps determine benefits for either beneficiaries or workers unable to seek employment. In the state of Missouri, a worker has a Permanent Total Disability if: Their injuries make them unemployable in the labor market, OR A combination of their injuries and pre-existing conditions make them unemployable The death of a worker due to work-related injury may entitle surviving dependent(s) or their spouse to compensation. Typically, death benefits are split between the spouse and the minor dependents. Under most circumstances, spouses receive benefits until death or remarriage, while minor children receive benefits until the age of 18. Contact a Skilled Missouri Workers’ Compensation Lawyer If you have questions about disability awards or want to file a claim for benefits, you need an experienced Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer to help get what you deserve. Workers’ compensation cases are largely determined on a case-by-case basis, so it’s important to consult with a lawyer. For more information or to get started on your case, contact Cottrell Law Office today or give us a call at (800) 364-8305.

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Workers' Compensation

Does Missouri Workers' Compensation Cover Coronavirus (COVID-19) Claims?

We are currently in the midst of an unprecedented and nationwide pandemic, and nothing is certain. Coronavirus has rapidly begun to affect nearly every facet of life, and workers’ compensation legal claims in Missouri are no exception. While businesses continue to adapt to these ever-changing circumstances, this will also inevitably give rise to questions about workers’ compensation rights and benefits for employees. If you are wondering how COVID-19 could affect your workers’ comp rights, contact us today. While our Joplin, Missouri workers’ compensation lawyers don’t take employment or unemployment cases, we do have extensive experience handling workers’ compensation claims. We are ready to adapt to these changing times and help you with your case. Overview of Missouri Workers’ Compensation Missouri workers’ compensation laws provide a statutory avenue for recovery for employees who sustain work-related injuries or diseases. If you sustain injuries that arise out of and in the course of your employment, then you may be entitled to compensation. What Are Employers Required to Do? In general, a Missouri employer with five or more employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance. However, construction companies with one or more employees must also carry workers’ compensation insurance.Additionally, under Missouri workers’ compensation law, an employer or its insurer must provide compensation for medical treatment and care to cure and provide relief to an employee injured on the job. However, the employer does have the right to choose the medical provider for the injured employee. What Do I Need to Do? To get the compensation you deserve, there are certain steps that you must take. Below are some crucial things to keep in mind as you navigate your workers’ compensation claim: Notify your employer First and foremost, you must report any work-related injury immediately to your employer or supervisor in writing. Failure to do so within thirty days of an accident or diagnosis for any occupational disease could jeopardize your potential recovery. Seek medical care While the employer has the right to choose the provider or treating physician, your employer must cover the cost. Thus, once you get approval from your employer, you should absolutely get the medical care and treatment you are entitled to. Act fast There is a two-year time limit to file a claim with the Division of Workers’ Compensation, so time is of the essence. Make sure to contact an attorney as soon as practicable to maximize your chances of success. Benefits Available Workers’ compensation is a great benefit to employees. In general, an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance will pay for all reasonably necessary medical care related to your on-the-job injury or illness. Specifically, employers must compensate employees for the following under Missouri workers’ compensation law: Medical, surgical, and chiropractic services; Hospital treatment; Nursing and custodial expenses; Ambulance costs; and Medicine. However, make sure that you first get approval for your treatment. Otherwise, you may end up being responsible for the expenses you incur. Missouri workers’ compensation will also help make up for lost wages if you are unable to work for a period of time due to your workplace accident. If your injury results in permanent disability, you may even be entitled to long-term benefits. Workers’ Compensation for Occupational Diseases Missouri workers’ compensation law specifically covers occupational diseases in addition to injuries sustained on the job. An occupational disease is a condition or illness that results from exposure in the workplace.Employees who contract an occupational disease are generally eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. However, Missouri workers’ compensation law requires an employee to prove that the workplace environment was the “prevailing factor” that caused the medical condition and disability. This means that the cause of contracting the occupational disease must be related to the conditions that exist in that particular job. How Coronavirus Relates to Missouri Workers’ Compensation This raises an important question: Can you recover workers’ compensation benefits if you contract COVID-19? The answer, unfortunately, may not be so simple. Generally, workers’ compensation benefits are not available for ordinary diseases that the public at large is exposed to, such as the flu or common cold. However, due to the unprecedented nature of Coronavirus, this is largely uncharted territory. On the one hand, COVID-19 is a nationwide pandemic, to which a significant portion of the public has certainly been exposed. This could make it difficult to prove that the workplace environment was the prevailing factor in contracting the disease, which is necessary to prevail on a workers’ compensation claim. On the other hand, the State of Missouri has not closed off any possibility of covering such claims. In fact, Governor Mike Parson and State Labor Department Director Anna Hui recently announced a new rule providing that all first responders who contract COVID-19 shall be presumed to have contracted the virus in the course of their official duties. This could go a long way in determining how workers’ compensation coverage for Coronavirus will be handled moving forward. How a Missouri Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Can Help It is always a good idea to contact a Missouri workers’ comp lawyer to discuss any legal issues you may be facing. But now, more than ever, it is crucial. The legal landscape is rapidly changing to accommodate and adapt to the issues raised by COVID-19. If you believe you have contracted COVID-19 during the course of your work, you may be entitled to compensation. However, navigating a successful claim on your own may be an uphill battle. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you assess your case and fight to prove that your work environment was the prevailing factor in contracting COVID-19. This could make the difference in achieving a successful claim. Contact Us Today If your workers’ compensation claim has been denied, you believe you have not received all the benefits you are entitled to, or you have questions about whether your Coronavirus-related claim qualifies under Missouri workers’ compensation law, now is the time to act. When it comes to your health and your workers’ compensation claims, you deserve the best. Wes Cottrell has […]

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Workers' Compensation

Guide to Missouri Workers’ Compensation Claims

A work-related injury comes with many hardships. If you have been injured while on the job or diagnosed with a disease caused by harmful exposure at work, the Missouri workers’ compensation law can provide relief. Types of workers’ compensation benefits may include medical care, lost wages, and possible disability. Our experienced Missouri workers’ compensation lawyers will explain what you should know. What Is Workers’ Compensation? Workers’ compensation is a type of required insurance used to cover workers injured on the job. This kind of insurance covers medical care, part of a worker’s lost wages, and, if needed, permanent disability. In return for carrying workers’ compensation insurance, employers are immune from lawsuits arising out of work-related injuries. Workers’ Compensation Eligibility Employees are eligible for workers’ compensation coverage simply by working for an employer carrying this type of insurance. Employers are required by law to maintain workers’ compensation for their employees. Workers Covered Under Missouri Workers’ Compensation If an employer in the construction industry has a business with one or more employees, they must carry Missouri workers’ compensation insurance. For all other industries, a business must carry Missouri workers’ compensation insurance if it has five or more employees. Postal, railroad, and maritime employees are not required to have Missouri workers’ compensation insurance, as federal laws cover them. Exemptions to Missouri Workers’ Compensation Missouri workers’ compensation requirements do not apply to: Farm labor, Real estate agents and direct sellers, Domestic servants Occasional work performed in private households, Certain unpaid volunteers, Certain inmates, and Specific individuals employed by youth programs. Jobs outside this list may be entitled to workers’ compensation. Covered Injuries To qualify for workers’ comp in Missouri, injuries must arise out of work performed during the time of employment. Injuries occurring while an employee commutes to and from work, or those for which the cause is unknown, are not covered by Missouri workers’ compensation. Steps to Take When Injured on the Job 1. Report the Injury Report the injury immediately to your manager or supervisor. Failure to notify your employer within 30 days of the work-related injury or diagnosis may put your workers’ compensation benefits at risk. It is best to report the injury or diagnosis in writing with great detail. If your employer has an accident or injury report form, complete and return it to your employer as soon as possible. Should your employer not carry a report form, it is available here from the official Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation. 2. Get Medical Treatment Should the work-related injury require medical care, communicate your needs to your employer. Under Missouri law, employers can select their preferred doctors in workers’ comp cases. Employers must provide employees with medical care and file the proper paperwork with the Division of Workers’ Compensation. 3. Seek Legal Help To better understand your rights and receive all necessary benefits, a Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer can be of great assistance. Timeline for Filing Workers’ Comp in Missouri If an employee decides to file a workers’ comp claim, the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation must receive the claim. The claim must be made within two years after the date of the injury or within two years after the final benefit payment is made, if payment was made. If the employer does not promptly file a report of injury with the Division, an employee is then given three years after the date of injury or the last benefit payment made to file a claim. Types of Workers’ Compensation Benefits Medical Care Medical testing and treatment, prescription, and medical devices are covered under Missouri workers’ comp. There is no deductible to be paid by employees, and all medical costs are covered by either the employer or their workers’ comp insurance company. The employer reserves the right to send employees to a physician of their choosing. All medical costs are covered, provided the employee seeks medical treatment with the authorized care provider. Should the employee seek their own unauthorized medical care provider or treatment, the employer and their workers’ comp insurance company are not required to pay. Reimbursement for Lost Wages If a work-related injury keeps you from returning to work for some time, you may be eligible for temporary total disability. If you are able to return to work with instructions to perform light or modified work and are earning less than full pay, you may be eligible for temporary partial disability. Temporary disability benefits continue until full work is resumed or when medical treatment is completed. Compensation for Permanent Disability Once you have reached maximum medical improvement (you have recovered as much as physically possible), but are left with a permanent disability, you may be entitled to certain benefits. Permanent partial disability You may be awarded permanent partial disability if the work-related injury has left you unable to perform specific work tasks, but not completely unable to work. For example, you may still be able to work at some job, but perhaps not the job you had at the time of injury. A lump-sum payment may be available depending on the extent of the injury. Permanent total disability Permanent total disability is available if you are no longer able to work in any capacity. If the work-related injury is the cause of the permanent total disability, you may be eligible to receive weekly payments for life from the employer or their workers’ comp insurance company. A lump sum instead of weekly payments may also be available. Survivor Benefits If an employee dies from a work-related injury or disease, their surviving dependents may receive weekly benefits paid at approximately 66% of the employee’s weekly benefits at the time of injury. The employer is required by law to pay for the deceased employee’s funeral expenses up to $5,000. Additional Benefits Available for Diseases Caused by Toxic Exposure Enhanced benefit payments are available for employees who have become partially or totally disabled or have died due to diseases caused by toxic exposure. Enhanced Benefits An amount equal to 200% of Missouri’s average weekly […]

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Workers' Compensation

What is the Missouri Workers' Compensation Statute of Limitations?

After a work-related injury, it is imperative to report the injury to your employer as soon as possible. Do not assume that your employer will compensate you without a claim. In 2015 alone, workers’ compensation programs paid $61.9 billion of lost wages and medical payments to claimants. However, you must file a claim before the Missouri workers’ compensation statute of limitations expires to receive benefits. The Missouri Workers’ Compensation Statute In the state of Missouri, you have 30 days to report your injury to your immediate supervisor. Also, you must report injuries that occur over time or develop later 30 days after discovering them. It is common to discover this type of injury at the doctor’s office. Make sure to inform your supervisor of your injury in writing. Once notified, they should provide you with paperwork to report your injury. The Department of Labor fines employers that fail to submit your paperwork to the Division of Workers’ Compensation. If an employer does not provide you with a form to report the injury, you can use this form from the Missouri Department of Labor. Once you report the injury, you have two years from the date of the injury to file for Missouri workers’ compensation. You can do this by filing a claim and sending it to the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation. If an employer fails to report your injury to the division on time, the Missouri workers’ compensation statute of limitations, you can potentially extend the statute of limitations for one year. What to Do if an Employer Retaliates or Denies Claims The Missouri workers’ compensation statute does not allow an employer to terminate or discriminate against an employee for filing a claim. Employers sometimes use the following actions to discriminate against employees exercising their right to workers’ compensation: Demotion Intimidation Reduction of Wages Increase or Decrease in Job Duties/Hours Poor Performance Reviews To claim that retaliation occurred, you must prove the following: You were an employee before the injury You filed a claim within the workers’ comp statute of limitations Your employer discriminated against or terminated you Your relationship between you and your employer was casual between filing your claim and retaliation Employers can deny claims if they occur outside of the Missouri workers’ compensation statute of limitations. Failing to file a claim before the statute of limitations can jeopardize your case, resulting in forfeited wages, rejected time off, and medical compensation. If you sustain a work-related injury, report it to your employer immediately. You can also seek help from a lawyer to help you file your claim before the statute of limitations runs out. Contact a Skilled Missouri Workers’ Compensation Lawyer If you have questions about disability awards or want to file a claim for benefits, you need an experienced Missouri workers’ compensation lawyer to help get what you deserve. Workers’ compensation cases are primarily determined on a case-by-case basis, so it’s essential to consult with a lawyer. For a free consultation, contact Cottrell Law Office today.

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Workers' Compensation

How to Handle Worker's Compensation Retaliation in Joplin, Missouri

The primary purpose of workers’ compensation benefits is to compensate employees for injuries they suffer while at work or performing a job-related activity, without needing to prove who was at fault for the injury. In exchange for these benefits, the covered employees agree not to file a lawsuit against their employer relating to those injuries. As useful as these benefits can be, if making a workers’ compensation claim may lead to retaliation by your employer in Joplin, MS, the benefits may not seem worth the risk. If that happens, though, you should contact a workers compensation lawyer for advice on how to proceed. What is Workers’ Comp Retaliation? The legal definition of retaliation (in the employment context) is basically taking an “adverse employment action” against an employee for “engaging in legally protected activity.” Filing a claim for a work-related injury, under the Worker’s Compensation Act, is considered a legally protected activity, because employees are legally authorized to file such claims. Therefore, the employee is protected from any negative consequences from his or her employer, simply because he filed a workers’ compensation claim. How Prevalent is Workers’ Compensation Retaliation? Some reports have indicated that retaliation by employers has become a serious problem. According to an article in the Wall Street Journal, the instances of workplace injuries has decreased by 30% over the last 10 years. This significant decrease has been attributed to various factors, including safer work conditions. Yet, some experts believe a major factor in the decrease of reported injuries is the increase in retaliation for making workers’ compensation claims.It is believed that employers are taking more aggressive steps to discourage employees from reporting their injuries. Indeed, some statistics show that, although worker’s compensation claims have dropped, the number of worker’s compensation retaliation claims has doubled. OSHA’s Opinions About the Causes of Workplace Injuries The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has reported that a substantial number of workplace injuries have gone unreported in recent years. OSHA’s investigations have found that most workplace injuries still arise out of unsafe working conditions, rather than employee negligence.For this reason, if an employee reports an injury, a subsequent investigation may lead to the company’s liability for fines and other violations. Why do Some Joplin, MS Employers Retaliate? Unfortunately, the response some employers have to workplace injuries is to blame the employee for the injury and challenge the claim.Some employers go so far as to punish employees for making a workers’ compensation claim. As a result, many employees are fearful of bringing worker’s compensation claims because of the potential negative consequences. This type of retaliatory conduct by employers goes against the purpose and goals of the workers’ compensation system, which is to quickly provide relief to employees who are injured on the job. Termination While on Worker’s Compensation Leave A common question employees who have been injured on the job have for their workers’ compensation lawyer is whether they can be fired while out on workers’ compensation leave. The answer is not as simple as a yes or no. While you cannot be terminated simply because of a worker’s compensation claim, it is possible to be terminated while you have an open worker’s comp claim. An experienced attorney can evaluate your case and determine the best legal options. What is an Employer Required to Do? Under the workers’ compensation laws, an employer is required to maintain an employee’s job, while a workers’ compensation claim is pending, until the employee has fully recovered, or reached “maximum medical improvement.” Maximum medical improvement, or MMI, describes the point at which your work-related medical condition is not likely to improve with further treatment. Should I Even File a Workers’ Compensation Claim? It is not uncommon for employees to avoid filing a worker’s compensation claim for fear that they will lose their jobs as a result.  So, instead, employees use their health insurance, sick days or short-term disability benefits to handle their work-related injury or illness.  However, many doctor’s offices routinely ask whether an injury occurred at work and, if so, they will bill the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance provider.  So, you may not have a choice but to file the claim. When is it Legal for My Employer to Fire Me While I’m on Leave? If your employer can demonstrate that there were reasons for terminating you, or laying you off, that had nothing to do with your workers’ compensation claim, then you may not have any recourse.  In order to be able to bring a workers’ compensation retaliation claim, which means you were terminated merely because you filed a claim, you have to demonstrate that was the only reason you were fired.  That can be very difficult to do. Contact Our Firm for Assistance If you have questions regarding retaliation, or any other Workers’ Compensation concerns in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a consultation, either online or by calling us as (800) 364-8305.

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Workers' Compensation

What is the “Second Injury Fund”?

If you have ever filed a Workers Compensation claim, you may be familiar with the “Second Injury” Fund. The Second Injury Fund is a fund maintained by the State, which is subsidized by a surcharge imposed on the Employer’s Workers Compensation premiums. The purpose of the fund is to provide additional benefits to injured workers, under specific situations. Our workers’ compensation lawyers will explain. The Most Common Use of the Second Injury Fund The most common situation where the Second Injury Fund is used is when an employee receives a lump sum settlement due to an additional disability resulting from a work-related injury, which is combined with a pre-existing disabling condition. Both the primary injury and the pre-existing injury must meet certain minimum threshold requirements before the workers’ comp Second Injury Fund will pay benefits. The Second Injury Fund and Permanent Disability The Second Injury Fund provides benefits when a person is totally and permanently disabled, as a result of the combination of the primary work related injury and other pre-existing disabling conditions. This type of benefit payment may consist of a weekly check for the rest of the life of the injured worker, or a lump sum payment. Other Applications for the Second Injury Fund The Second Injury Fund will also make payments for medical treatment when an employer, who is otherwise required to have Worker’s Compensation insurance, for some reason does not.  Also, under limited situations, the Second Injury Fund will pay lost income benefits from a second job when an injury occurred on a primary job. Arkansas’ Second Injury Fund Arkansas’ Second Injury Fund was first established in 1973. Like many other states, the Arkansas Second Injury Fund was created to encourage employers to employ disabled workers.  The goal was, in the event of a subsequent injury, the employer’s liability for permanent disability benefits would be limited. The Second Injury Fund pays the disabled employee the difference between the employer’s liability and the balance of his or her disability or impairment.  This way, the employee is fully covered. However, the Arkansas Second Injury Fund is a little different from most other states, in that it only pays indemnity benefits.  In Arkansas, the medical benefits are to be paid by the workers’ compensation insurance provider. Missouri’s Second Injury Fund Missouri’s new Second Injury Fund (SB1) became effective January 01, 2014. This new law changed the way Second Injury Fund benefits are awarded.  Now, the benefits depend upon the date of the most recent compensatable injury.  Missouri’s fund, like other states, compensates injured employees when a current work-related injury combines with a prior disability to create an increased combined disability. The injured employee must have a permanent, pre-existing disability to trigger the Second Injury Fund. The fund also pays for the following: Medical bills, Benefits for physical rehabilitation, Second job wage loss benefits, Burial expenses, and Death benefits Contact a Missouri and Arkansas Workers’ Comp Lawyer for Assistance If you have questions regarding Second Injury Fund benefits, or any other Worker’s Compensation issues, send us a message or call the Cottrell Law Office at (800) 364-8305.

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Workers' Compensation

How Long do You have to File a Workers Compensation Claim in Missouri?

If you were injured on the job, workers’ compensation insurance should pay for medical treatment and compensate you for a portion of your lost wages. Unfortunately, many employees who get hurt on the job don’t get the benefits they’re entitled to. One of the ways you could lose your benefits is by waiting too long to report an accident or to file your injury claim. Knowing your rights and how long you have to file your claim can help protect your legal rights. An experienced Missouri workers compensation lawyer can provide you with answers to these and other questions and fight to get you the compensation you deserve. If there are any complex issues or severe injuries in your case, the wisest decision is to consult with a Missouri workers’ compensation attorney. What is the Workers’ Comp Claim Time Limit in Missouri? After a work-related injury, you have two deadlines to consider. Reporting a Work Injury to the Employer First, you must report your injury to your employer in writing within 30 days of the accident. In some cases, you may not realize you’ve sustained an injury. In that case, you should be allowed 30 days from the time you discovered your injury to report it to your employer. If you do not report your injury within this period, you could lose your right to compensation. Your employer may have specific policies or procedures in place for making an injury report. Be sure to follow those guidelines exactly. Otherwise, your employer could use any deviation as justification for denying your benefits. Once you notify your employer of an injury, the employer must notify the Missouri Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). The DWC should then send you written communication outlining your right to benefits. Filing a Formal Workers’ Comp Claim The second deadline you must consider is how long you have to file a workers’ comp insurance claim if your original claim was denied or if you aren’t getting your benefits for some reason. You have two years from the date of the injury to file a Claim for Compensation with the DWC. If you were receiving workers’ comp benefits but they were wrongfully terminated, you have two years from the date of your last payment to file your claim. If your employer failed to report your injury to the DWC originally, you have three years from the date of injury or last benefit payment to file a claim. What Benefits Does Workers’ Comp Insurance Provide? In most cases, you should receive benefits that include: Reasonable and necessary medical treatment, Reimbursement for lost wages, Vocational rehabilitation, and Compensation for permanent injury or disability. Workers who were injured on the job often report that they receive substandard or non-responsive medical treatment from the doctors they are required to see. You have the right to ask for a different doctor but, in most cases, the insurance company will attempt to minimize the amount they have to spend on your treatment. You will also not be reimbursed for the full amount of your lost income. Indemnity benefits (lost income supplement) do not begin until you have been out of work for seven days. The amount of compensation you receive will depend on whether your case is classified as: Temporary total disability (TTD), Temporary partial disability (TPD), Permanent total disability (PTD), or Permanent partial disability (PPD). The amount of potential benefits varies with each category listed. However, you won’t be compensated more than 2/3 or 66% of your average weekly earnings. All categories are capped by law, at 105% of the average weekly wage in Missouri. Can You Sue for a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Missouri? Missouri law prohibits any employee who is covered by worker’s comp from suing his or her employer. This restriction applies even if you don’t get your rightful benefits. If your employer was required to provide workers’ compensation insurance but failed to do so, you could have the right to pursue a legal claim.In some cases, you could have the right to pursue legal action for a work-related injury. For example, if a third party caused or contributed to your injuries, you may be entitled to recover damages from that party. Your employer cannot discriminate against you for filing a workers’ comp claim nor can the employer unfairly deny your benefits. Should either of those events occur, you might also have the right to pursue a claim. The best way to understand your options for filing a claim or pursuing legal action is to talk with an experienced Missouri workers’ compensation attorney. Should You Talk to a Missouri Workers’ Comp Lawyer? The Missouri workers’ compensation laws and processes are complex and potentially confusing. If you got hurt on the job, you need to focus on getting the treatment you need and recovering from your injuries. Chasing after the benefits to which you are entitled will not allow you to focus on getting back on your feet. Your attorney can answer all your questions, such as “How long do you have to file workers comp?” and “How much compensation should you receive while you’re unable to work?” Your attorney can explain your options for filing a claim and handle all of the legal aspects of your case.Finally, your Missouri workers’ comp lawyer can help you decide when it makes sense to settle your case. You might get a settlement offer from the insurance company that does not cover your damages. Accepting such a settlement could jeopardize your legal right to pursue any further damages. Speak with a Workers’ Compensation Attorney in Missouri Today You don’t have to fight this battle alone. Talking to an attorney will help you make important decisions about your future. The experienced attorneys at the Cottrell Law Office have more than 30 years of experience. We are committed to protecting the rights of injured workers and helping them recover the compensation they deserve for their injuries and lost income. If you have questions regarding workers’ compensation time […]

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Workers' Compensation

Worker’s Compensation Attorney Explains the Appeal Process

If you have been injured on the job, there are a lot of issues that can arise if your injury is covered by your employer’s Worker’s Comp carrier. One of the more stressful issues is the Worker’s Comp hearing. Hearings can be complicated to navigate if you do not have experience with them. Judges often limit the evidence that injured employees are allowed to offer at a hearing or limit the scope of the issues that will be decided at the hearing. Problems with witnesses testifying as anticipated or unexpected witnesses appearing to testify. If the hearing goes wrong and you are denied your Worker’s Comp benefits, your only option may be to appeal. If you find yourself in this situation, let our Joplin Workers Compensation attorney help. The Workers’ Compensation Appeals Process The Worker’s Compensation system is based on administrative law which means that an administrative agency oversees the entire system under the authority of the governor.  Administrative law judges conduct hearings that are similar to civil trials. When you receive an unfavorable decision after your worker’s compensation hearing, you can first appeal to the Worker’s Compensation Court of Appeals.  This “court” is also an administrative law panel.  If you are unhappy with the result you get there, the next step would be to seek judicial appellate review in either the state supreme court or court of appeals. What are the Most Common Reasons Workers Comp Claims are Denied? One of the most common reasons that workers’ compensation claims are denied is that the claim was not filed or reported to the employer within the required time limits. The law requires that a worker report the claim immediately, sometimes within a matter of days. In turn, the employer is required to notify its workers’ compensation insurance carrier just as quickly.  If those deadlines are not met, the claim will likely be denied. Another common reason is that the employer disputes the claim, usually asserting that the accident did not occur at work, or that your injury or illness was preexisting. Some state worker’s compensation laws do not cover certain conditions, for example, those that are stress-related. Your claim denial letter should state the reason(s) your claim was denied. What are the Necessary Steps to Appeal a Decision? The steps in the Worker’s Compensation Appeals process vary from one state to the next, but in there are some general stages in the process that everyone must complete in order to appeal their decision. If your claim for benefits is denied, the first step is to determine why.  Again, the reason(s) should be indicated in the denial letter.  It may be an issue that can quickly be resolved, such as failure to submit a particular document or piece of evidence.  Once you determine the reason, you can request that the insurer reconsider its decision, especially once you have provided any missing documentation. If these steps do not resolve the issue, you can file a formal appeal within the guidelines established by your state administrative agency.  A Joplin workers compensation attorney can be very helpful in making sure all of the requirements are met. What Does the Appellate Panel Look for in Reviewing a Decision? At the appeal hearing, you will be required to present medical and other factual evidence to support your workers’ compensation claim, whether it is a work-related injury or occupational disease.  Usually, the review of a worker’s compensation decision is limited to only questions of law.  This means, the facts will be assumed to be what the hearing judge determined them to be and only the law will be considered to determine if there were any errors. This would include the character or veracity of any witnesses and other evidentiary rulings. Should I Hire a Joplin Workers Compensation Attorney to Handle my Appeal? If you hire a Worker’s Compensation Attorney to assist you, he or she can determine why your worker’s compensation claim was denied and begin to obtain the necessary documentation and evidence to prepare for an appeal.  Your attorney can also contact necessary witnesses and retain experts if necessary, to support your case.  As many worker’s compensation claims are denied because of medical issues, your attorney can have you evaluated by an independent medical expert, if it will help your case.  Under the law, a Joplin workers compensation attorney is paid based on a small percentage of the benefits you receive for your claim, so attorney fees should not be an issue for you. Appealing an unfavorable decision from a workers’ compensation claim or hearing can be very tough. You must convince the reviewing court that good reasons exist to change the administrative judge’s decision. You will be required to follow the specific rules that set out the time limits, as well as the filing and evidentiary requirements during the appeals process. Choosing a Joplin workers compensation attorney who understands the appeals process will ensure that you are able to meet the challenge. If you have questions regarding appeals or any other workers compensation matters in Arkansas or Missouri, please contact the Cottrell Law Office for a free consultation. You can contact us either online or by calling us toll-free at (888) 616-6356.

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