What are My Legal Rights When Injured at Work?
If you suffer an injury at work, the initial concerns of you and your family are, of course, your well-being and ensuring you get all necessary medical treatment. But with any workplace injury, your attention will soon shift to financial concerns. How will you pay your medical bills? Will someone cover any lost wages?
Knowing what your legal rights are, your entitlement to workers’ compensation, and whether you can pursue a claim if anyone is liable for your injury can give you peace of mind and assurance as to financial support.
How Bad is the Problem?
i. Private Sector
According to figures from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 93,900 non-fatal workplace injuries in Michigan’s private sector. That represents an incidence rate of 3.1 cases per 1oo workers, significantly higher than the national average.
As you would expect, the incidence rate can vary greatly depending on the nature of the business. Financial services only had an incidence rate of 0.8 per 100 workers, while the natural resources and mining sector had rates of 5.3 per 100. The construction industry saw the highest number of fatalities in 2017 with 31 deaths.
Of those 93,900 reported cases, 46,900 were classified as being of a more severe nature that led to missed days from work, restriction of duties, or a job transfer. These are known as DART cases (Days Away, Restricted, Transferred). DART cases occurred at a rate of 1.6 per 100 workers.
ii. Public Sector
Michigan’s public sector had 15,300 work-related injury or illness cases reported in 2017, representing a rate of 4.3 per 100 workers, slightly less than the national average.
Michigan’s laws require that your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance. The insurance is to cover any financial worries you may incur, including medical bills and lost wages.
While in theory workers’ compensation laws are a very good policy, workers’ compensation claims can often get complicated and filing a claim has to follow a set of strict regulations. But entitlement to these benefits will, in most cases, preclude you from being able to make any claim against your employer.
In some circumstances, you may be able to file a claim against a liable third party. This could be against a manufacturer – if equipment you were using could be proven to have been faulty or defective – or against a subcontractor or even an individual. In these cases, your lawsuit must be able to show:
- That your accident or illness is related to your work.
- That the defendant owed you some level of duty of care.
- That they failed in that duty.
- That you have suffered illness or injuries and that they were caused by an incident or conditions at your workplace.
Federal employees are covered for work related injuries under federal laws.
Problems That Can Arise
The main problem that can arise when filing a workers’ comp claim is time related. You are required to report any injury received at work within 90 days of it happening. While this can be done orally to a manager, we recommend filling out your workplace’s official accident report forms.
In many cases, employers and insurance companies will raise a dispute if the injury is not reported quicker than those 90 days, something that can be very frustrating as the severity of some injuries do not fully manifest for weeks or more.
In cases where you have developed an illness or condition as a result of workplace conditions, the that 90 day period starts from the day you identified the condition as being an occupational disease. You will have to prove that this was not a pre-existing condition.
Even if the initial injury appears minor, always complete an accident report form as soon as possible as it provides an evidentiary paper trail in the event of any disputes. Some injuries, such as a head injury, may not show all effects fully until some time after the initial accident.
When you file a workers’ compensation claim for personal injury, your employer’s insurance company will process the claim then make a settlement offer. As with anything, insurance companies do not like paying out, so any offer may well be less than you are entitled to.
This is where having a good lawyer representing you can have major benefits. Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. have vast experience in this area of the law and are the foremost firm in Michigan when it comes to ensuring good settlements.
What Am I Entitled To?
If you have been injured on the job, workers’ compensation offers several different benefits.
- Medical costs. All necessary and reasonable healthcare costs, which can include initial treatment, rehabilitation & physical therapy, and also counseling if needed.
- Loss of salary. You will receive a percentage of your monthly salary as a result of having to take time off work as a result of any job injuries.
- Any specific loss. If you lose a limb or similar as a result of a work related injury then you will be covered.
- Retraining. If the injury prevents you from resuming your previous work role, workers’ compensation will cover up to two years of vocational rehabilitation to train you for a new role or job or to help find new employment.
- In the event of a fatal accident, payments will be made to surviving spouse and/or dependents and $6,000 in funeral expenses will also be provided.
In some cases, you may be able to take any final settlement as one lump sum instead of as monthly payments.
Workplace accidents can be relatively minor or can have devastating effects that can last for many years or even for life. And, of course, some incidents sadly result in fatalities.
While workers’ compensation insurance is a great parachute policy and works well in many cases, it is far from perfect and claimants are often offered derisory settlements.
Having an attorney with experience in the area of law surrounding this policy, and of workplace accidents in general, can give you a big advantage in any dispute or litigation.
This part of Michigan law is something Cochran, Kroll & Associates, P.C. have specialized in for many years. We will competently represent you in any negotiations with insurance companies or in pursuing third party liability.
One distinct advantage we also bring to the table is having a highly experienced nurse attorney, Eileen E Kroll, as one of our senior partners. With her knowledge and experience, she can cut through medical jargon, communicate with involved healthcare professionals, and strongly present the medical arguments in your case.
If you would like to find out more or ask any questions, we offer a free initial appointment which you can book by calling 1-866-642-4529.