Suffering a burn injury on the job has two effects. First, it greatly increases the likelihood that you will recover some of the damages that you suffer because of your injury. Second, it virtually eliminates the likelihood that you will recover other damages, such as punitive damages and pain and suffering.
This section will give a broad overview of Workers’ Compensation. Before reading this, please know that Workers’ Compensation schemes vary from state to state. If you suffer a burn injury on the job, be sure to contact an experienced attorney in the Workers’ Compensation field who can help you through your claims process.
History of Workers’ Compensation
Until 1855, workers injured on the job had few ways to recover for their damages. Over the next fifty years, until the early 20th century, states slowly adopted statutes that would allow workers to recover if their employer had acted negligently in causing the worker’s injury.
Beginning early in the 20th century, states began to adopt what we now see as modern Workers’ Compensation schemes. By 1949, all states had enacted such programs. These schemes removed the requirement that the employer act negligently in causing the worker’s injury. However, they also lessened what the worker could recover.
Present-day Workers’ Compensation
In most states, employers must participate in Workers’ Compensation schemes. One exception is Texas, which allows businesses to opt out of it. Those employers that opt out of the scheme, however, expose themselves to legal liability in the event of employee injury.
Generally, Workers’ Compensation schemes require that employers purchase insurance to cover their workers. If they fail to purchase such insurance, most states provide a public uninsured employer fund to pay workers injured on the job.
How a Workers’ Compensation Claim Works
Again, please remember that the exact rules for a claim vary by state. That being said, there are some common themes amongst the statutory schemes.
First, you must notify your employer of your injury or illness within 30 to 45 days of your accident or the injury or illness becoming known. Failing to do so can lead to a denial of your benefits.
Next, you should ensure that your employer has submitted a report to the state agency in charge of Workers’ Compensation and has reported the injury to their insurance carrier. Once the carrier has been notified, they should begin to pay your medical bills and provide you with temporary disability checks, usually two-thirds of your weekly income.
If, for whatever reason, the insurance carrier denies your claim, you can appeal that rejection with the state agency that oversees Workers’ Compensation. If you have not already done so, you should retain an attorney for this appellate process.
Why a Claim May Be Denied
There are several reasons that your claim may be denied. Some are supported by the law of Workers’ Compensation. Others are simply because insurance companies do not want to pay out what they do not have to. If any of these situations apply to you, be mindful that your claim may be denied and be prepared to hire an attorney to help you receive the benefits you deserve.
First, your claim may be denied because no one saw your injury. If this is the case, be sure to tell a consistent and accurate version of what happened to all those you report the injury to.
Next, your claim may be denied because you did not immediately report your injury, even if you reported it within the period required by law. To avoid this situation, report all accidents immediately and fill out an accident report. If an injury later becomes apparent, you will have some factual basis to fall back on.
Next, your claim may be denied because illegal drugs are found in your system. If this occurs, your claim will likely be denied. Speak to a workers’ compensation attorney to consider your next steps.
Next, your claim may be denied because you refuse to cooperate with the insurance company’s investigation or sign their medical authorizations. Generally, you are not required to participate in the insurance investigation. They do not have the automatic right to view your medical records. If they deny your claim because of your refusal, contact a Workers’ Compensation attorney immediately. They will help you deal with the insurer.
What Workers’ Compensation Covers
Workers’ Compensation does not offer the same range of recovery that a lawsuit or settlement might. Most states cover four Workers’ Compensation benefits.
First, Workers’ Compensation will pay the medical bills associated with your workplace injury. Note that the Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier may limit what doctors you may see.
Second, the scheme will pay you temporary disability benefits while your injury keeps you from performing your job normally. This is generally a large percentage of your normal salary.
Third, if you are permanently disabled, meaning that your recovery will not be full, you will receive compensation for that permanent disability. The awards can vary state by state, but are generally based on the value of the loss associated with the permanent disability.
Finally, Workers’ Compensation generally will pay for vocational rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation is a type of job training. It intends to help you adjust to whatever permanent disabilities are associated with your workplace injury so that you can resume working, either at your job or in a new line of work.