According to the Department of Labor, there were around 2.9 million workplace injuries and illnesses 2015. While this equals only three percent of the workforce, it does not include all the claims that were not reported out of fear of retaliation or loss of employment. Injured workers in certain companies and industries may experience difficulties from their employers when they are injured. Below explains common problems and how workers’ compensation lawyers may resolve them.
Claim Disputes and Denials
Most employers do their best to help injured workers receive support and fully recuperate, but certain unscrupulous employers may pressure injured workers to not report the injury or use their private health insurance to quietly seek medical attention. These companies want to save money because higher numbers of injured workers automatically increase the workers’ compensation insurance rates and premiums. Workers who have suffered a legitimate injury at work are legally guaranteed the right to file a workers’ compensation claim, access an appeals process and enjoy their injured workers’ rights. Employers may seek to deny claims for chronic medical illnesses that do not have a specific incident dates or accident events.
Acute vs. Chronic Health Problems
It is understandably difficult to pinpoint when a chronic medical condition actually occurred. Many employees naturally associate workers’ compensation claims with sudden workplace injuries. For example, some of the most commonly reported injuries are overexertion, back strains, machinery accidents, falling objects and repetitive motion disorders. Slips, trips and falls are more likely to occur in business office settings with ladders, electrical cords, wet floors and complacent employees. However, manual labor employees who perform repetitious motions or are exposed to hazardous conditions all day are prone to chronic health problems. This includes dusty air, loud machinery and noxious chemicals.
Defense Against Retaliation
Some employers will punish injured workers by reducing their hours or reassigning them to menial tasks. They sometimes discipline, demote or terminate the injured employee. It is unfortunate that some workers are simply fired without just cause after they are injured on the job. The only way to respond to this unethical situation is a workers’ compensation lawyer. If there was an accident involving unsafe conditions, a legal professional may reach out to the state’s occupational health and safety department to elicit support. They will work with the health care providers and specialists to gather and present important medical documentation.
Any injury that prevents a worker from returning to their job or performing their regular duties will eventually need the help of a workers’ compensation lawyer. Partial or permanent disability claims are very complex and challenging. They require strong HR, legal and medical and government knowledge. Disability claims are usually very expensive and result in long-term disability payments, so employers will naturally oppose them. The company and their insurance company may do anything to undermine or reject the claim. The state’s Social Security agency may be entitled to receive a small portion of the workers’ compensation benefits. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will help their clients navigate through this confusing process.
Injured Workers Rights
Employees who are injured on the job are protected by both state and federal laws. However, some employers may intentionally or inadvertently encourage the injured employee to return to work too early. The DOL assigns time loss percentages to companies based on the amount of time injured employees miss work. The higher the time loss percentage, the worse it reflects on the company’s safety. Light duty and modified duty programs are excellent ways to help the injured quickly resume normalcy, but some employers may ignore the work restrictions. This means that the injured worker may exacerbate their medical condition, which the company may then blame on the employee.
Any injured worker who experiences workplace intimidation, unfair requirements or a hostile work environment should consult with a workers’ compensation lawyer. They will successfully deal with the employer, hospital, insurance company and the state’s workers’ compensation agency.