Most adults spend approximately a third of their waking hours on the job or in work-related activities. This fact makes the chances of having a work injury significant.
In Utah, recent statistics show that the number of workplace injuries in the private sector did not decrease, even though companies generally put a continual focus on safety. The number of work injuries in the public sector displayed a notable jump, highlighting that injury on the job is still a real threat. How can a work injury lawyer help after a person deals with a work injury?
Rights Under Utah’s Labor Laws
Utah requires all companies with employees to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. No matter who is at fault, this coverage pays for medical and disability benefits for injured workers as long they were on a work assignment during the incident.
This coverage comes with one caveat: An employee cannot sue the employer for a workplace accident in most circumstances. Further, to receive such benefits, the person must be a paid employee. Independent contractors and freelancers essentially own their businesses and do not receive coverage from the clients and companies they contract with.
What Workers’ Comp Covers
The coverage only handles treatment for injuries that relate to workplace incidents. Such costs include medical bills, partial disability coverage, total disability coverage, rehabilitation services and death benefits to the surviving family.
At this point, the assistance of legal counsel and medical professionals can be of aid. An insurance company usually tries to limit what injuries it claims are due to the accident to lessen its payout. A simple statement by the employee can prove devastating for a case.
For example, a representative of the company or the insurer may ask if the hurt employee experienced any neck pain before the incident. An affirmative response could lead the company to assert that neck pain after an accident is not due to the accident but a preexisting condition.
While the employee might not hire an attorney to sue the company or insurance firm, the professional can investigate and help the client gather suitable evidence. A lawyer can also help with an appeal if a company denies a claim or seems to offer benefits that are too low.
The attorney can also keep an eye out for any impropriety on the part of the employer or insurance company. If either of these parties acts in bad faith, the employee may be able to bring a lawsuit against them.
When To File a Lawsuit for Workplace Injuries
In specific circumstances, an employee can bring a case against someone after a work injury.
In most instances, an employee can bring no case against the employer except when an employer deliberately caused harm. Also, if an employer did not carry workers’ compensation, an employee may sue to recover damages since the insurance was not in place to provide assistance.
Someone other than the employer may be responsible for the injury. This fact may permit an injured person to bring a lawsuit. A person can bring a claim against the parties responsible for the accident. For example, a driver may have a collision on the road due to the negligence of another motorist, property owner or road maintenance crew.
Another circumstance that can allow a lawsuit is product liability. A construction worker could be operating a machine that has a faulty part. If the defect causes an injury, the operator may be able to sue the manufacturer, distributor or supplier for negligence.
Other types of incidents can permit a personal injury settlement. These situations might be a domestic animal attack, wounds during an altercation between other individuals or harm suffered during a robbery attempt.
How a Lawyer Can Help Increase a Payout
An employee must be careful not to waste time or energy pursuing a hopeless case. An individual typically wants to pursue injuries in excess of what workers’ compensation provides. This fact is particularly vital because workers’ compensation does not make a person whole.
For example, the coverage only provides two-thirds of an average weekly wage at the time of injury. The compensation also does not exceed 85% of the state average weekly wage. To fill the gaps in earnings and cover noneconomic damages, such as pain and suffering, a personal injury case may be the ideal option.
Additionally, there are no limits on noneconomic damages in cases that are not medical malpractice suits. The anguish or psychological trauma can affect a person for years and limit the types of work a person can do. The injured worker may require extensive mental health care. A personal injury case helps a worker cover these damages.
Also, a plaintiff needs to be aware of the various statutes of limitations. Personal injury cases have a four-year limit. Injury cases that involve the government have a one-year limit, restricting the time to act. A plaintiff also only has one year to file an appeal in a suit against the government.
A lawyer can also provide a worker easier access to resources for investigating the claim or locating authoritative witnesses. Such assistance can increase the final settlement.
When a Business Can Terminate an Employee on Workers’ Comp
Whether you file a claim for workers’ comp benefits or a lawsuit against a company that does not have coverage, an employer has no grounds to retaliate. However, an employer may discharge employees who can no longer perform their previous duties after injuries. Companies do not have to retain the worker or offer a new job.
Once a doctor releases an employee to do any level of work, whether light or full duty, the employee must accept the job. The employee risks losing benefits if refusing to accept the work. If the employer offers a different position at a lower wage, the injured worker may be eligible for temporary partial disability compensation to make up for the difference in wages.
However, when a physician releases an employee to return to work, the employee has the right to accept that job without interference from the employer. Determining whether an employer’s actions are retaliatory or malicious requires rock-solid evidence since employers have many legal protections and likely have legal counsel of their own.
Rules for Employee Doctor’s Visits While on Workers’ Comp
Employers have the right to select the doctor for the initial visit. However, employees must receive notice of the company’s Preferred Provider Organization to know which physicians they may visit.
One exception is in the case of an emergency. Then injured workers can seek assistance from whichever hospitals or physicians they choose. If an employer tries to dispute this fact, a lawyer can assist the injured worker in asserting one’s rights.
A lawyer can also help the injured employee ensure that the physician fills out the proper forms promptly. A doctor must complete a Physician’s Initial Report of Work Injury or Occupational Disease form within seven days to ensure the employee can start the benefits process. The guidance of legal counsel throughout the process helps an injured person avoid a costly technicality.
Lawyers Ready To Assist All Over Utah
The workers’ compensation process is complex, with many regulations that can favor an employer and keep an employee from accessing as much compensation as possible. With the help of experienced lawyers, workers can protect their rights and income.
If you suffered a work injury and need a lawyer to review your claim, contact one of the trustworthy members of the Siegfried and Jensen team. With locations throughout Utah, we are ready to help workers around the state.