Being hurt on the job is never fun. And knowing what to do and who to call can seem overwhelming when you're also nursing an injury. Reporting the injury to your employer is the first step so they can send you for medical treatment. But what happens after that? Do you need a workers comp attorney or can you handle this alone? What you do will depend on a number of factors, but here's how to know if you need a worker's compensation attorney for your case.
When to Go it Alone
If you've been injured on the job, you may think you should contact an attorney right away. But the truth is, there are a lot of situations in which you can handle things alone. If your injury is minor, you didn't miss a lot of work, your employer doesn't disagree that the injury happened on-the-job, and you don't have any pre-existing conditions that could complicate the state of your injury, then most of the time, you can file your claim without any legal assistance.
When to Hire a Worker's Comp Attorney
Although many people sail through their worker's comp claim with no issues, there are times when hiring a lawyer will be necessary. Here are some situations in which professional legal help is required.
1. Your claim is denied. Sometimes employers deny the claim, assuming that the employee won't go to the trouble of filing an appeal. In other situations, your employer's insurance will try to get out of having to pay.
Reasons claims are denied vary but include the following:
Whatever the reason, if your claim is denied, you'll need to file an appeal if you want to pursue benefits. This can be a tough journey if you try to do it alone. An attorney can help you file the necessary paperwork, contact witnesses, and let you know what sort of evidence is needed to win the appeal.
2. An injury from years past is resurfacing. If you collected worker's comp in the past, and complications from that injury are rearing its ugly head, hiring an attorney will be necessary in most cases. These are special situations because you may need to file an appeal as opposed to filing a new claim. The steps involved and the paperwork needed can get complicated without professional assistance.
3. Your settlement isn't enough. In some cases, you may win a settlement, but it's not enough to cover all of your losses. A judge will ultimately sign off on the amount, but what if it only pays a small percentage of your medical bills or you end up missing more work that you originally predicted? If you're not happy with what you receive, getting an attorney to fight the settlement amount is the best way to proceed.
4. You receive social security disability. If you're eligible to receive social security disability benefits, filing for worker's compensation will generally cause your SSDI benefits to be reduced in order to account for the worker's comp income. This is known as an "offset," and the way it's determined varies from state to state. But usually, the Social Security Administration will look at the maximum amount of combined benefits you're entitled to receive.
Some states honor what's known as a "reverse offset" which adjusts your worker's compensation based on the amount of social security benefits you're entitled to.
No matter how your state handles an offset, an attorney can help you by submitting what's known as a settlement agreement. This can sometimes reduce an offset or prevent certain expenses from being included in the offset.
5. Your employer retaliates against you. If for any reason you feel as though your employer is trying to punish you or is treating you differently in a negative way since filing your claim, it's important to contact an attorney for help. Signs of retaliation can include cutting your pay or hours, being fired or demoted, or treating you in a discriminatory way.
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