Worker’s compensation insurance provides reimbursement for medical expenses to employees who suffer work-related injuries. This right to reimbursement requires the injured worker to forfeit his or her right to sue the employer for negligence related to the injury. If you’ve suffered a work-related injury and you are wondering whether you really need an attorney, here are some things to consider.
When It May be Alright to Represent Yourself
Generally speaking, if you suffered a minor workplace injury and missed little or no work as a result, you may be able to successfully represent yourself. Your chances of success increase if your employer does not dispute the injury was work-related and you did not have any pre-existing injuries or conditions that may be relative to your claim.
When You Should Hire an Attorney
If there are any complex issues in your case, the wisest decision is to consult with a Workers’ Compensation attorney. For instance, if your employer denies your claim or you do not receive your benefits, as you should, then an attorney should get involved. Nearly 80% of employees who are injured at work do not appeal the denial of their claim. Consulting a workers’ compensation attorney provides you with the best chance of receiving a fair settlement for your injuries.
Is the Workers’ Comp Settlement Offer Sufficient?
In some cases, an employer will offer to settle a Workers’ Comp claim for an amount that does not actually cover your lost wages and your medical bills. If you are concerned that the settlement offer your employer made is not sufficient, it is a good idea to consult with an attorney. It is not always good to simply allow the Workers’ Comp judge to determine whether the settlement is fair because they typically approve the agreement as long as it isn’t “grossly” unfair.
You are Unable to Return to Work
If you are in a situation where your medical condition prevents you from returning to your old job, or from performing any work at all, then you have likely suffered permanent partial disability or permanent total disability. In that case, you may be entitled to lifetime weekly payments, or a lump sum payment, to compensate for your lost wages.
You Believe Your Employer Has Retaliated Against You
If you believe your employer has taken some action against you, in retaliation for filing a Workers’ Comp claim, such a demotion or reduction in hours or pay, then you may also have a claim for unlawful discrimination or retaliation. In that case, you should contact a Workers’ Comp attorney immediately.
Potential third-party claims
Despite the fact that Workers’ Comp law prevents an employee from filing a lawsuit against the employer for work-related injuries, it does not prevent legal claims against a third-party, when that person’s negligence contributed to the employee’s injuries. For instance, if you are a delivery truck driver and you are injured in an auto accident caused by someone else, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the at-fault driver. You can do this in addition to receiving your Workers’ Comp benefits. In these cases, you should also seek the advice of an attorney.
If you have questions regarding Workers’ Comp claims, or any other personal injury concerns, call the Cottrell Law Office at (800) 364-8305.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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