Workers’ compensation law has changed significantly over the 40 years of my practice. And it is good for, the worker, to understand the changes, most of which have worked against you.
This is due to the influence of the insurance companies and big business, to the disadvantage of the worker.
Of course, with the economy in the shape it is now, it is ever harder for the injured to worker to assert his or her rights, simply because they need the job to feed their family.
So, if you’re hurt on the job, please let me give you some advice that might save you a lot of heartache later.
- If you are are hurt on the job, report it to your supervisor immediately and be sure that human resources fills out an accident report.
- Know the names of your co-workers who may have been witnesses to your accident as their testimony may be needed later (if they’ll testify despite fear of losing their jobs).
- If your injury is serious, seek medical care immediately.
- KNOW YOUR RIGHTS. You have a right to see a doctor of your choice, not your employer’s and this is one of the most important rights you have.
- Document everything, write down when and who you talked to at work about your injury and what they said.
- DO NOT sign an FMLA form, that is not for workers’ compensation. That is for some medical condition of you or your family not connected with work. CONSULT A LAWYER FIRST. DO NOT TURN YOUR MEDICAL BILLS IN ON YOUR EMPLOYER INSURANCE AS THEY DO NOT PAY FOR WORK INJURIES. If you’re in this problem, you really need a lawyer.
- HIRE A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAWYER AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. There is no charge. Talk to them. Get advice. Learn what to do.
- Employer’s and their insurance companies try to steer you to their doctors. DON’T DO IT. Consult your lawyer on the doctors he knows are fair to employees and employers (if there are any left.)
- Don’t be intimidated. But don’t confront management. Tell them you have a lawyer and tell them to talk to your lawyer.
- If the claim is accepted as a work injury, which means you should be paid 2/3 of your average weekly wage in Mississippi, work with your lawyer to be sure you get paid on time. After all, you have bills to pay if you’re off. You also are entitled to payment for gas to get to and from your doctor.
- If you are back on light duty, per your doctor’s orders, NEVER QUIT. Make your employer fire you. If you quit, they will say that had a job for you that your doctor said you could do but you just wouldn’t do it.
- Beware of FCEs (Functional capacity exams). Doctors love these things, but the physical therapists know which side the bread is buttered on (as do the doctors) and talk to your lawyer about an FCE that is ordered by your doctor.
- KEEP your lawyer informed of what is going on. Are you at work, are you on light duty? Can you do what the employer “calls” light duty? What do you do then if you can’t? YOU NEED A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAWYER TO ADVISE YOU ALL THE WAY.
The end result is that everyone, including your lawyer, hopes that you recover from your injury and are fully capable of resuming the work you were doing, and that you have the job. That doesn’t always happen.
No matter what happens, YOU WILL BE WISE TO HAVE A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION LAWYER ADVISING YOU ALL THE WAY. And don’t worry. You don’t have to pay the lawyer a thing out of your pocket.
And, even then, it’s only 25% of any settlement for dealing with the case before the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
The fee goes to 33% if it’s appealed. You will never be billed for fees or expenses. All come out of any settlement.
In a way, you can’t lose HAVING THE RIGHT ATTORNEY.