By law and with very limited exceptions, every employer in Minnesota must carry workers’ compensation insurance from an insurance company that is licensed in Minnesota. When an employee is injured in a job-related accident, the insurance compensates him for his injuries and lost wages. The insurance company, however, is paid by the injured employee’s employer and not by the employee. This creates incentives for the insurance company to use sneaky ways to try to screw you when you suffer an injury on the job.
Consider some of the myths that have grown out of attempted workers’ compensation insurance denials:
MYTH #1: Workers’ compensation does not become effective until after a trial period.
FACT: You are covered from day 1. Assume that you suffer an injury on your first day on the job. Your employer’s insurance carrier might tell you that worker’s compensation insurance does not cover you until you complete a trial period of employment. By law, all employees are covered as soon as they become employed.
MYTH #2: Payments for lost wages can be suspended while a settlement is being negotiated.
FACT: Regular payments for lost wages must continue regardless of any ongoing negotiations for complete settlement of a claim. A workers’ compensation insurance carrier might argue that it will wrap wage replacement payments into the final settlement, but several weeks or months can go by before that settlement is finalized. An injured employee is entitled under law to continue to receive wage replacement payments regardless of the status of any negotiations.
MYTH #3: An employee’s group health insurance will offer quicker coverage for medical costs.
FACT: An employee’s job-related injury might require the employee to receive extensive therapy or surgery to effect complete recovery. Often, the employee will need pre-approval for that therapy or surgery before the insurance carrier pays benefits. Pre-approval is appropriate, but a workers’ compensation insurer might delay that approval in an attempt to force the employee to resort instead to his group health insurance. Health insurance, however, might require the employee to pay deductibles and co-pays for the same medical services that would be fully compensated by workers’ compensation benefits. An employee who suspects that a workers’ compensation carrier is delaying approval should consult with an attorney to protect his rights and to expedite the delivery of necessary medical services.
MYTH #4: The injured person is not covered because he or she is an independent contractor.
FACT: Independent contractors are not covered by workers’ compensation insurance, but often an employer or its insurance carrier will improperly categorize a person as an independent contractor to avoid having to pay any workers’ compensation benefits. The law is very clear as to the distinction between employees and independent contractors. If, for example, you are required to work a specific number of hours at an employer’s location, and you use the employer’s tools and facilities to do your job, you are deemed to be an employee and you are covered by the employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.
MYTH #5: You are not entitled to insurance benefits if your regular daily activities are not impaired.
FACT: Insurers might require an injured employee to submit to a medical examination by a physician who works for the insurer, and who will be more likely to opine that injuries will not prevent the employee from performing certain tasks or carrying out regular activities. If your benefits are denied as a result of an opinion from a physician who works for the insurer, get an independent medical exam from your own physician.
Workers’ compensation companies are not inherently evil, nor will they deny benefits in every situation. Nonetheless, they are under constant pressure from employers, shareholders, and insurance regulators to reduce their costs. They employ sneaky ways to screw injured employees when that pressure becomes unmanageable. The attorneys at the Law Office of Joshua Borken have extensive experience in dealing with workers’ compensation insurance companies to make sure that employees are getting the full measure of their benefits when they suffer a work-related injury. Please contact us to schedule a consultation if you have been hurt on the job. We will prevent the insurance companies from screwing you over.