Workers’ compensation systems exist to ensure that people injured in workplace accidents or suffering from work-related illnesses have access to the medical care and lost wages that they need to recover and return to their jobs. Employers benefit by not being forced to defend against lawsuits filed against them by injured workers, which occurred before states enacted workers’ compensation laws.
A system established to protect the rights of injured workers would appear to eliminate the need to hire a lawyer to represent you, which may be true for a minor work-related injury without any complicating factors. There are, however, signs that tell you when a lawyer with extensive workers’ compensation experience should be consulted.
According to data compiled by the National Safety Council, more than 140 million people are covered under workers’ compensation systems. When injured on the job, you should immediately notify your employer in order to begin the claims process to receive medical care, lost wages, and other benefits permitted under the workers’ compensation system in your state.
You may be capable of handling a claim on your own if it involves a minor injury that your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance company does not dispute happened at your workplace. Even when the claim may appear to be simple and easy to handle, you may benefit from a consultation to have a lawyer review the claim and explain what to expect under the workers’ compensation law in your state.
Signs you need to hire a lawyer
A claim for benefits may appear simple and easy to handle on your own, but it may quickly become complicated and require the assistance from a workers’ compensation lawyer. Signs that it is time for legal representation include the following:
- Denial or delay of benefits: The insurance company handling the workers’ compensation claim on behalf of your employer may deny all or part of the claim. It may refuse to reimburse the wages lost for all of the time that you missed from work, or it may refuse to pay for all of the medical care ordered by your doctor. A lawyer who knows the workers’ compensation law and the benefits it allows for injured workers can put that knowledge to work fighting on your behalf.
- Existence of a preexisting condition: A claim may be denied or benefits limited because of a preexisting health condition. The insurance company may attempt to avoid paying the benefits available under the workers’ compensation law by claiming that the preexisting condition and not the workplace accident was the true cause of the ailment forming the basis for your workers’ comp claim.
- Disagreement about your ability to return to work: The purpose of workers’ compensation is to provide the medical care needed for you to recover and return to work. Disagreements between you and your employer or the insurance company about whether you should return to work may require the gathering and presentation of evidence to support your position. A lawyer has the experience from handling compensation claims to know the type of evidence and the most effective way to present it to prove your case.
- Expectation to apply for Social Security disability or Medicare: The workers’ compensation insurance company may offer a settlement of your claim for benefits, but this may affect benefits from Social Security disability or Medicare. A compensation lawyer understands how to structure the workers’ comp settlement to minimize its impact on other benefits that you may be receiving or be entitled to receive.
- Retaliation from your employer against you: An employer cannot prevent you from filing a claim for compensation benefits or retaliate against you. A lawyer can look out for your rights and take steps, including suing for monetary damages for the actions of your employer.
Injuries requiring long-term medical care or work-related accidents caused by third parties are other factors that can complicate a claim for compensation benefits and signal the need for competent legal representation by an experienced compensation attorney.
Consulting a workers’ compensation lawyer
When considering whether to file a workers’ compensation claim on your own or hiring a lawyer to represent you, keep in mind that your employer has an insurance company with a team of skilled lawyers on its side. Representation by a Bend lawyer committed to fighting for you is one of the rights that you have under the Oregon workers’ compensation law.