Workers’ compensation is a government-mandated initiative that recompenses injured or ill employees. The laws vary from state to state, but they aim to safeguard the staff members of companies and institutions.
In 2021, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that private industry employers recorded 2.6 million nonfatal job-related injuries and illnesses. California logged the most cases that year, with over 349,000. Texas, New York, Pennsylvania, and Illinois also recorded more than 100,000 injuries.
Construction, health care, agriculture, fishing, forestry, and hunting are among the most dangerous industries for workers. Additionally, the National Safety Council has determined that the country's leading cause of work-related injury in 2020 was exposure to hazardous substances such as radiation, temperature extremes, noise, and electricity, with 43.5 out of every 10,000 full-time workers affected. In 2021, exposure was also one of the leading causes of workplace deaths, accounting for 15.4% of the total number.
The statistics regarding workplace injuries are concerning. This article aims to provide valuable information to injured employees and the families of workers who have died from work-related accidents or diseases. This resource contains details that may help them navigate the procedures involved in workers' compensation claims or lawsuits.
The Legal Rights of Employees Suffering From Workplace Injury or Illness
Many workers are employed in occupations where they are at risk of serious injuries or occupational illnesses. Poor working conditions can result in slips and falls, defective equipment, fires and explosions, and exposure to hazardous substances. These could be attributed to the employer's negligence or misconduct, especially if they failed to warn staff members of the hazards associated with their roles.
Consequently, workers' compensation laws have been established in every state, protecting people who are injured, disabled, or sick while performing their job. These have been enacted and implemented to provide financial compensation to injured workers and dependents of employees killed in work-related accidents or illnesses. Benefits include payment for medical care, wage replacement, vocational rehabilitation, and death-related costs for the family in the event of death on the job.
The Department of the Interior is also dedicated to preventing workplace injuries and illnesses. This commitment led to the establishment of the Workers' Compensation Program, which focuses on assisting employees in submitting prompt compensation claims to receive timely benefits from the Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation Programs. This government initiative also keeps track of injured and sick employees' medical recovery.
Average Settlements for Workers’ Comp Cases
According to the Workers Compensation Statistical Plan database maintained by the National Council on Compensation Insurance, the average cost for all workers' compensation claims consolidated in 2019-2020 was $41,353. The same data shows car accidents are the most expensive lost-time claims by cause of injury, averaging $85,311 per workers' compensation claim filed, followed by burns ($54,173) and slips and falls ($48,575).
Meanwhile, workers with multiple injuries can expect to receive a settlement above $20,000 because multiple body parts are affected. According to the National Safety Council, the average cost of a workers' compensation claim involving multiple body parts is $62,859, which includes $30,212 for indemnity and $32,647 for medical treatments.
Do I Need a Workers’ Comp Lawyer?
Workplace accidents can happen at any time, so employees should be aware of what they need to do to receive the benefits they deserve. To ensure favorable outcomes, injured employees must hire a workers' compensation lawyer who is well-versed in federal and state laws and has extensive experience with on-the-job injuries and occupational illnesses. The following are some of the most common scenarios that will require the assistance of an attorney.
Your Injury or Illness Resulted from Your Employer’s Negligence or Misconduct
A workers' compensation attorney can assist you in obtaining and collecting the maximum allowable benefits under your state's laws. They can advise you on which benefits you are eligible for, such as medical benefits to cover health expenses and disability benefits to aid your recovery. They can also ensure that you receive compensation for any monetary losses incurred as a result of being unable to work due to your injury or illness.
Your Employer Won’t Report Your On-the-Job Injury or Illness
Your employer must file a First Report of Injury or Occupational Illness report with the Bureau of Workers' Compensation or your insurance provider. The deadline for submitting the report, which is the first step in determining your workers' compensation claim eligibility, varies by state. If your employer refuses or fails to report your injury or illness, you must seek the help of a workers' comp lawyer to ensure you receive compensation for your injuries and inability to work.
Your Employer or Insurer Denies Your Workers’ Comp Claim
Incorrect, incomplete, or late paperwork; disputes over the severity of your injury; and your condition failing to meet state guidelines are some of the reasons why your workers' compensation claim may be denied. If your employer or insurance company denies your claim, seek the assistance of a lawyer in filing an appeal within the state's set deadline, which is usually between 30 and 90 days. An attorney will assist you in obtaining complete medical records and evidence, as well as properly assessing and negotiating settlements.
Your Settlement Offer Is Less than What You Deserve
Consult with a workers' compensation attorney after acquiring appropriate medical attention and diagnosing the nature and seriousness of your injury. They will assist you in determining the full extent of your damages due to a workplace injury and obtaining the compensation you deserve for your medical treatment and lost earnings.
Your Employer Retaliates against You for Filing a Worker’s Comp Lawsuit
Some state laws prohibit employers from firing or retaliating against employees who file a workers' compensation claim. If your employer retaliates against you, such as through a pay cut, relocation, rejection of a promotion, or an unfavorable performance review, hire a workers' compensation attorney to investigate your case and work to hold your employer accountable for any improper conduct.
Qualities to Look For in a Workers’ Comp Attorney
If you have suffered an on-the-job injury or occupational disease, seek the advice of a workers' compensation attorney to ensure that you receive the damages you are entitled to. A reliable law firm directory can help you find an experienced and dependable workers' compensation lawyer or law firm in your area. You may also visit the websites of your state or local bar associations for additional information. Meanwhile, here are some characteristics to look for in a workplace accident lawyer:
Years of Professional Experience
When hiring a workers' compensation lawyer, one of the first things you should consider is their level of experience. You should consult a legal practitioner with extensive expertise in handling workplace injury cases like yours. They also usually have a network of other professionals, such as medical experts, who can help build your case.
A Proven Track Record
If you want to hire the best workers' compensation lawyer, you must first ensure that they have successfully represented injured employees. You should ask the practitioner how many cases they have worked on in their career, particularly those similar to yours. Examining their overall track record can assist you in making an informed decision. You may also discover whether they are better with a specific type of case, such as defective equipment, slips and falls, and poor working conditions.
Knowledge of Your Specific Injury
The best workers' compensation lawyer is familiar with your injury, illness, or disability and can collaborate with medical providers in building your case against your employer or insurer. It will be beneficial if your attorney is knowledgeable about the medical care and recovery procedures associated with your type of accident.
Seek the advice and representation of a workers' compensation attorney who can answer your questions clearly and thoroughly. During your consultation, you should pay attention to whether they are easy to understand and sound confident, as they will be dealing with your insurance company, the workers' compensation board, or a judge. Your legal counsel should be able to communicate effectively.
Compassion and Empathy
Going through a workers' compensation lawsuit can be stressful, which is why injured workers require the assistance of a compassionate and understanding attorney. Look for a lawyer who prioritizes your best interests while considering your mental and emotional well-being. If they do not empathize with your situation, they may not be as determined to advocate for you as another lawyer would be.
When looking for the right workers' compensation attorney, ask how much their services will cost. The best attorneys will disclose their fees upfront and charge reasonably. Many legal practitioners and law offices also provide free consultations.
Legal Resources for Injured Employees
The Legal Services Corporation (LSC), founded in 1974 as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation, seeks to promote equal access to justice nationwide and provide high-quality civil legal assistance to low-income citizens. LSC currently funds more than 130 independent nonprofit legal aid organizations nationwide. Those needing legal help can find out more about the LSC-funded organization closest to them by entering their address or selecting their location on the web page's search bar and map.
The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs at the US Department of Labor has compiled pertinent information, including addresses and contact information for the appropriate state workers' compensation officials. All US states and territories on the list are linked to the websites of their dedicated workers' compensation divisions, where injured workers can learn more about their state's claims processes, requirements, and programs, as well as access resources and links to claim forms.
The Office of Workers' Compensation Programs has compiled answers to the most common questions about the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA). Questions revolve around filing claims, obtaining compensation for lost wages due to an injury, and getting copies of important forms. On this page, employees can also access information regarding the FECA Claims Administration, which pays medical expenses and compensation benefits to injured workers.
Employees who believe there is a serious hazard in their workplace can file a confidential safety and health complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). More information on how to file a complaint can be found here. Employees have the right under the OSH Act to ask that their identities not be disclosed to their employer. They can also request an inspection of their workplace if they believe their employer is not following OSHA standards.
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