injured at workIf you have been injured at work, you are probably wondering what your next step should be and whether you need to hire an attorney. If there are any complex issues in your case, it may be wise to consult with a Workers’ Compensation attorney. For example, if your employer denies your claim or you do not receive the benefits you believe you are entitled to, then it is best to get an attorney involved. Many 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.

What is the Purpose of Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

The purpose of a Workers’ Compensation benefits is to ensure that employees who are injured at work will be reimbursed for those injuries without the need of filing a lawsuit in court. Through the Workers’ Compensation system, the injured employee receives compensation for the work-related injuries and in return agrees not to file a lawsuit against their employer. This can benefit the employee because he or she is not required to prove negligence or liability in order to be compensated for the injuries. In other words, it is essentially a no-fault system.

Workers Compensation is the Only Remedy Available if You are Injured at Work

Before this system was put into place, an employee’s only remedy was to file a lawsuit, which required proof of damages. Now, nearly all employees are automatically entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Likewise, the employer is automatically protected from lawsuits based on the employee’s injury.  Basically, Worker’s Compensation benefits are meant to be a substitute for filing a lawsuit against the employer. In other words, if you accept workers’ compensation benefits, you waive your right to file a lawsuit.

When is it Alright to Represent Myself?

In cases where a worker has only suffered a minor workplace injury and missed little or no work as a result, it may not be necessary to hire an attorney.  Your chances of success increase if your employer does not dispute that you were injured at work or that the injury was work-related. If you had any pre-existing injuries or conditions that may be relevant to your claim, that could create a different challenge.

How Do I Know if a Settlement Offer is Sufficient?

In some cases, an employer will offer to settle a Workers’ Compensation claim for an amount that does not actually cover your lost wages or 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 at that point.

What Happens if 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. This is something that an attorney can help you to negotiate to ensure you receive a fair settlement.

What if I Think My Employer has Retaliated Against Me?

If you believe your employer has taken some action against you in retaliation for filing a Workers’ Compensation claim, such as 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’ Compensation lawyer immediately.

Can I File a Claim Against Someone Other than My Employer for My Injuries?

Despite the fact that Workers’ Compensation laws prevent an employee from filing a lawsuit against the employer for work-related injuries, employees can file legal claims against a third-party when that person’s negligence contributed to the employee being injured at work.  For example, if you travel for work and you are injured in a car accident caused by the negligence of someone else, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the other driver.  You are allowed to file that lawsuit in addition to receiving your Workers’ Compensation benefits.  In these cases, you should also seek the advice of an attorney.
If you have questions regarding car accidents or any other personal injury 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.

Author Photo

Wesley Cottrell

Wes Cottrell earned his B.A. from Pittsburg State University in 1981 and his J.D. from the Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas in 1985. He was admitted to practice law in Kansas in 1986, in Missouri in 1987, in Arkansas in 1989, and Oklahoma in 1993. 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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