So You Have Been Injured At Work-Do You Need A Lawyer?
Ryan Zavodnick | October 27, 2015 | Workers' Compensation
Your day starts out like any other. You get up, perhaps get your kids dressed and off to school, and you head to work. You know the routine, it is habitual at this point in your life.
At the end of your shift or workday you will return home, have some dinner and spend time with your family. Only on this day, something unexpected happens. After reporting to your job as a laborer, painter, carpenter, security guard or cashier, the unexpected happens-you get hurt at work.
So You Were Hurt At Work-What Happens Next?
After you are injured at work, you must report your injury immediately to a supervisor. In most cases, your supervisor will require you to fill out an incident report and will tell you that you have to go see one of the company doctors. While this isn’t true in most cases and isn’t entirely true in any case, this is your first work injury and everything is a blur so you fill out the report and go directly to the emergency room or company doctor whom your employer told you to see.
You go to the emergency room and after a brief examination (unless you have broken an arm or leg or are literally bleeding out), the ER doctor tells you to follow up with an occupational health or workers’ compensation doctor.
If you happen to have gone directly to the company doctor that physician typically does a brief physical examination and gives you work restrictions, without ordering any diagnostic studies or performing any tests to ensure that you haven’t sustained a serious injury, or even asking about what type of work you do to ensure that he/she is returning you to a job that you can actually physically perform.
You then hand the doctor’s note to your supervisor (who many times has accompanied you to the first medical visit), and your supervisor tells you to report for work the following day and that the company will find something for you do to.
Honey Do You Think I Need To Get An Attorney About My Work Injury?
Honey, should I call an attorney to discuss my workers’ compensation claim? That is the question you ask your significant other when you return home for the evening.
This may be your first work-related injury. Your employer seems nice enough and they said they would take care of you, so your first thought is that you do not need a lawyer and cannot afford one. This is a common and even reasonable way to think, but not calling an attorney about your work injury is a mistake that people who have been injured rarely make again if they are unlucky enough to sustain a second injury at work down the road.
The reason for this is simple. While your employer tells you that they are going to handle everything and that you don’t need a lawyer, what they don’t tell you is that this is not their first workers’ compensation claim! What they also don’t tell you is that they have workers’ compensation insurance, and that the claims handler or adjuster assigned by the insurance company has handled hundreds, if not thousands of work injury claims. They don’t tell you that what is in your best interest is not necessarily what is in the company’s best interests.
You are concerned with getting the proper treatment from good doctors and getting back to work pain-free. Your employer and its insurance company are concerned with spending the least amount of money possible handling your claim and paying for your medical treatment and any wage loss.
Your employer particularly just wants to keep you coming in to work, whether you are physically capable or not, because they think that if you go out of work and the insurance company pays you workers’ compensation benefits the employer’s insurance premiums will go up in the future.
The insurance adjuster assigned to the claim has been handling claims for so long that he/she automatically assumes everyone who is injured at work is trying to “game the system” and obtain a large settlement, so they are on the defensive from day one. The adjuster seems helpful enough to you on the phone and assures you that the company will pay for all of your treatment and asks you to call him/her if there are any problems, so you feel pretty good about the situation and you think that you are protected. Unfortunately, you are not.
Yes, You Need To Call A Lawyer Immediately If You Have Been Hurt At Work!
If you have been injured at work you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney immediately. Your employer and its insurance company are not looking out for you. They will not tell you that you don’t have to see a physician chosen by your employer.
They will not tell you that you are entitled to a second and even third opinion regarding your injuries and ability to work. They will not investigate whether or not there is a third party you might be able to sue for negligence in causing your injuries. Most importantly though, your employer has insurance, so why shouldn’t you? First and foremost, you should never be asked to pay a fee out of your own pocket for a consultation with a workers compensation attorney.
It is illegal, and if anyone ever asks you to do so make sure you thank them for their time and run the other way! Work injury attorneys do not get paid unless and until they obtain benefits for you. If and when a workers comp attorney becomes entitled to a fee, it is paid directly by the insurance company out of any wage loss benefits you are entitled to. The fee cannot be more than 20% of your benefits. The attorney will pay for any costs associated with litigating your claim, should that become necessary.
If you pick the right attorney, the firm will not attempt to obtain a fee from the insurance company within the first 21 days of your injury. Your employer has 21 days within which to decide whether or not to pay you and accept your claim if you are out of work. There is no need to file any petitions with the state during that time period because it is always possible that the employer decides to pay you workers’ compensation benefits voluntarily.
At Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC, we will not file a workers’ compensation claim petition within the first 21 days of your injury unless the employer has already denied liability for your injury. The reason is simple–we know how hard it is for people who have been injured at work to survive on the wage loss benefits they receive, so if the employer is willing to pay our clients without us having to go to court and fight, we would prefer that our clients get the full amount of their benefits. However, we will agree to represent individuals within the first 21 days of them being injured at work.
What we tell our clients in these circumstances is that they should view our firm as their insurance for their work injury. Only, unlike their employer, who pays for insurance, our clients don’t have to pay anything unless and until we have to start going to court to defend their benefits in the future, or we are able to settle their workers’ compensation claim for them. Our clients get the full benefit of our knowledge and services without it costing them anything.
We are able to explain and provide answers to what they can do, what they can’t do, and what they have to do. We are able to assist our clients if they experience any problems receiving their checks, or difficulty setting up medical appointments. We handle all communications with the employer and insurance company regarding the claim, ensuring that there will never be a he said/she said battle in court down the road.
Put simply-if you have been hurt at work you have every reason in the world to call an attorney right away and find out what your rights are, and absolutely no reason not to. If you meet with a lawyer and decide that you would prefer to handle things on your own, hopefully you will have learned a few things from your consultation and it will not have cost you anything. If you hire an attorney to represent you but the insurance company has already started paying you benefits or starts paying you within the first 21 days of your injury, then you have an attorney acting as your “insurance” who doesn’t cost you anything.
Why You Shouldn’t Wait To Call An Attorney About Your Workers’ Compensation Claim
We know what you are thinking. You got hurt at work but you are going to wait a few weeks or months to see what happens before getting an attorney involved. There is no harm in that right? WRONG! The longer you wait to speak to a top workers’ compensation lawyer, the greater the potential is that by the time you speak to the lawyer your claim will have been mishandled, you will have seen doctors who are only concerned with your employer and not with your well-being, and irreparable damage to your claim may have been done.
Our firm has most definitely been hired by individuals who were hurt at work months, if not years after their injuries, that much cannot be disputed. However, what also cannot be disputed is that things run much more smoothly when we are hired immediately following an injury and are able to follow your treatment, speak to your doctors and speak to you early on and guide you through the process.
We are able to answer any questions about the appropriate action to take before you take action, instead of answering questions months or years later about the consequences of what has already been done. Our goal, unlike the insurance company handling your claim, is to get you the treatment that you need to help you recover and ensure that you are paid the wage loss benefits you are entitled to while you are out of work. This can be a complicated process, and you should make sure that you have a top-notch attorney at your side helping you through the process and making sure that the insurance company and/or your employer don’t take advantage of you by telling you things that aren’t true and by refusing to pay you the benefits you are owed.
If you or a loved one have been injured at work, contact one of our top workers’ compensation attorneys at Zavodnick, Zavodnick & Lasky, LLC today for a free consultation about your claim. You can reach us at (215) 875-7030.