The difference between having a workers’ compensation lawyer for your case, and not having one is enormous. I could say it’s night and day, but night and day aren’t different enough.
Before you go thinking I’m just a self-interested workers’ comp lawyer, let me explain. (I am just a self interested comp lawyer, but that doesn’t make me wrong.)
Key Risk (a MD workers’ comp insurer) requests that injured employees follow specific steps. These steps are the perfect example of what’s wrong with not having an attorney. The numbered steps in blue are what they request. My comments are in black. As of 4/17/12, the Key Risk instructions are right on their website.
1. Immediately notify your supervisor of your injury.
No problem here. This is required under workers compensation law and reasonable.
2. Give your supervisor all information regarding the accident so he or she can notify Key Risk.
This isn’t terrible. It seems pretty innocent. What is not being said is, “If you say anything we can use against you at all, we will.” There is no Miranda warning for workers’ comp. They won’t warn you, they’ll just hold it against you. Be careful what you say.
3. Your supervisor will provide you with a list of panel physicians. Choose a physician from this panel for your treatment.
No. In Maryland, you may choose any doctor you would like for assistance in dealing with workers’ comp. The only caveat is the doc must take workers’ comp. Don’t get hoodwinked into thinking you have to go to their doctor. At this step, you should already get a workers’ comp lawyer.
4. When you arrive at the doctor’s office or the hospital, let the nurse know that Key Risk administers your workers’ compensation program.
Ok. But don’t say anything else.
5. Upon return from treatment, give any work status documents to you supervisor.
The doctor’s note will be needed to get paid TTD.
6. Once Key Risk receives your injury report, your claim will be assigned to an adjuster. The adjuster will complete an investigation and advise you with regard to the status of your claim. If the investigation concludes that your injury meets the criteria established by state law, you will reciveed all benefits to which you are entitled under the Workers’ Compensation Act. If the adjuster’s investigation discloses a non-covered injury, you will be notified in writing of the denial.
“The adjuster will complete an investigation and advise you with regard to the status of the claim.” Bullshaloney. Don’t be confused – “advise” in this sentence means “tell”, not “help”. That adjuster’s goal is to pay as little as possible.
Contrary to what they might have you believe, a denial is not final. That’s what attorneys and the WCC are for. But even if the claim is “accepted” or “approved”, you still need an attorney. The employer or insurer/benefits manager can begin denying aspects of the claim at any time.
7. If you have questions regarding your workers compensation coverage, ask your supervisor or claims adjuster for additional information.
What does your supervisor know about workers’ comp injuries? And remember the adjuster’s motto, “As little as possible.” Questions should be directed to your workers’ comp attorney.
8. If you are losing time from work, stay in contact with your claims adjuster. He or she will guide you through the rehabilitation process and help you return to work as soon as possible.
“Return to work as soon as possible.” Not, “make sure you are taken care of.” Not, “Make sure you are covered financially.” Not, “make sure you are okay.”
But what might be worst of all is what isn’t said…
If your workplace injury has a lasting effect on your body, you are entitled to compensation in the form of Permanent Partial Disability. Use the workers’ comp calculator to get a rough estimate of how much compensation.
If you are only dealing with your employer and/or your employer’s insurer or benefits manager, you are a sheep amidst the wolves. Even if the wolves are honest, they have a duty to look out for themselves. You should have someone who has a duty to look out for you.