If you were hurt on the job and are trying to figure out how to cover all your needs while you heal, you may be running into some roadblocks with workers’ compensation.
To start, it helps to understand the basics: Workers’ comp is a type of insurance coverage that federal law requires businesses to have. It must cover health care costs, wage replacement, disability compensation, and even funeral expenses if an employee gets sick, is injured, or dies on the job.
Workers’ comp gives benefits no matter who is at fault. In exchange for the compensation, “the worker cannot bring a civil action against the employer for pain and suffering or other damages, except in cases of intentional acts,” according to New Jersey’s Department of Labor and Workforce Development.
The key to ensuring you get full coverage for your work-related injury or illness is quick reporting. You should alert your workplace as soon as a health problem arises, so your employer and its insurance carriers can direct you where to go for medical care.
Even when you follow the guidelines, workers’ comp may not cover everything you need until you can return to work. To help, here are some tips for what you can do when workers’ comp isn’t enough.
Prepare to defend yourself
As with any insurance company, the carrier providing your workers’ comp benefits will want to keep its costs low. Because it is your employer’s carrier, not yours, it may try to cut off benefits as soon as possible, which means you need to be prepared to defend your rights.
Workers’ comp laws are complex so, instead of trying to represent yourself as you work with insurance, a personal injury attorney who is experienced at dealing with workers’ comp claims can represent you. Hiring an attorney means you can focus on healing, while the attorney focuses on getting you the compensation you need.
Take your attorney to your vocational assessment
If your employer or the workers’ comp insurance provider asks you to take a vocational assessment or evaluation, a lawyer will help protect your rights. The goal of the assessment is to gauge your earning capacity, and the vocational expert may ask you a series of questions about your ability to work, your past jobs, or training you’ve done.
“A vocational expert can either support a claim for economic damages or refute a plaintiff’s claim for such damages,” according to Occupational Assessment Services.
The expert may be asked to testify in court, which is why what you say in your interview is so important. Your attorney can ensure all questions are relevant to your case and that your interview is conducted fairly. When you receive your assessment results, your lawyer can also help you decide what steps to take.
Identify who is responsible for your illness or injury
If a third party — someone besides you or your employer — was responsible for your illness or injury, you can hold that party liable.
For example, if you are a construction worker who slipped on a tool left by a plumber who does not work for your company, that plumber is at fault, according to HG.org legal resources. Or, if you were sickened by a mislabeled toxic substance that did not leave you eligible for workers’ comp, the product’s creator can be held liable.
If you need help navigating the complexities of your workers’ compensation case, contact us to set up a free consultation.