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Workers' Compensation Attorneys

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What is Workers’ Compensation?

Workers’ compensation is the practice of law in which an attorney represents either an employee or an employer in a specific injury case that occurred during an employee’s regular conduct of their job duties. Workers’ compensation also oversees the compensation of the dependents if a worker is killed while on the job. This is not limited to just immediate injuries that occur on a job site but can also include injuries that develop from exposure to dangerous materials over a period of time.

Companies are responsible for ensuring the safety of their workers as they conduct their normal job duties. With that in mind, many companies develop certain rules and regulations to ensure the safety of their employees as they conduct these duties. Even with these precautions companies are able to implement, not every job can be safe 100% of the time. If, in the course of normal work duties (and under the safety guidelines outlined by the company) an employee is injured, the employee is within his or her rights to file a workers’ compensation claim against their employer. 

Most companies are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance (except in the state of Alabama). There are definitely holes in these policies though. Not all employees are covered under this policy and some states don’t require full coverage for undocumented workers or certain types of employees including:

  • Domestic workers
  • Agricultural workers
  • Seasonal workers
  • Undocumented workers

Workers’ compensation law is subject to both federal and state law. The federal laws typically only apply to government employees or those who conduct interstate commerce. Each state carries different laws regarding their individual workers’ compensation system. 

Should the Injured Worker File a Workers’ Compensation Claim or a Civil Lawsuit?

The injured worker will need to determine if they will be filing a workers’ compensation claim or a civil lawsuit against his or her employer. This decision may be determined by the state law, it may be an optional choice, or the case may warrant both paths. It is sometimes difficult to determine which is the best route, and consultation with a workers’ compensation lawyer is essential. If an employee files a workers’ compensation claim (in most cases) they forfeit their right to file a civil lawsuit against his or her employer for negligence or other damages. 

Under a workers’ compensation claim, the injured worker will be compensated for lost wages, medical costs, and occupational rehabilitation expenses as well as a payment for the loss of use of any body part or the death of the employee. 

If the worker is exempt from the workers’ compensation program or is able to file a civil lawsuit (and it would be the better option for them), they may pursue that route. 

Under a civil lawsuit, a judge will render a decision based on the evidence presented accusing the employer of fault. 

Additionally, a civil lawsuit may be filed by an injured worker against a third party in addition to his or her workers’ compensation claim against the employer. The employer is also empowered to file a civil lawsuit against a third party to recover the expenses paid under the workers’ compensation claim (if the third party is at fault – i.e., faulty equipment, etc.). 

The Levels of Workers’ Compensation Claims

Like any legal case, there are levels of severity that need to be considered. Under the umbrella of workers’ compensation claims, there are four different levels of severity. 

Level 1: Medical Treatment Only

The first is Medical Treatment Only. In this case, the injury is mild. The employee is able to seek medical attention to the injury and have the issue resolved with no time lost on the job. In this case, the worker will seek compensation for his or her medical expenses only. 

Level 2: Medical Treatment with Lost Time From Work

The second level would be Medical Treatment with Lost Time From Work. Under this scenario, the employee may have experienced a more severe injury which not only necessitates medical attention but time off from work. In this case, the employee would seek compensation for his or her medical expenses as well as the lost income from the missed time.

Level 3: Medical Treatment and Injuries that Prevent the Employee from Returning to Current Work

Under the third level, Medical Treatment and Injuries that Prevent the Employee from Returning to Current Work, we witness an even more severe level of injury. In this case, the employee was injured so severely that he or she is unable to perform the duties they were previously able to perform. This typically applies to more physical jobs. In this case, the employee would be seeking compensation or medical expenses as well as his or her change in lifestyle. In this case, the workers’ compensation attorney would most likely need to engage a Forensic Economic specialist to determine how the injury will affect their job prospects long-term.  

Level 4: Medical Treatment and Injuries that Prevent the Employee from Returning to Any Work

The fourth level of injury is Medical Treatment and Injuries that Prevent the Employee from Returning to Any Work. This type of claim typically involves severed limbs, blindness, paralysis, or other catastrophic injuries. In this case, the workers’ compensation attorney would again engage the services of a Forensic Economic specialist to determine the amount of lost wages the injury caused the worker. Additionally, if the injury creates a situation in which the client needs any type of long-term care, that would be considered in the claim as well. In some cases, benefits can continue for the duration of the employee’s life. 

Types of Workers’ Compensation Claims

There are certain industries that are more prone to worker injuries. Fishing and logging are the two highest. Some other high-risk industries involve pilots, roofers, waste management professionals, steelworkers, farmers, truck drivers, and landscapers. Obviously, an employee could be injured no matter where they work, but these industries are more inherently dangerous. 

Following are some of the more common workers’ compensation claims:

  • Overexertion (muscle or joint damage)
  • Slips, trips, and falls
  • Electrocution
  • Struck by fallen object
  • Transportation accident
  • Machinery accident
  • Unintentional overdose
  • Workplace violence
  • Exposure to harmful substances
  • Fires or explosions