1 Free Legal Consumer Guide Series Brought To You By Meeting All Your Legal Needs For 50 Years
2 2 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation HOW TO USE THIS GUIDE If you read this guide, you will discover what you need to know about your legal issue, and learn about your options. Then you will be armed with information so you can make an informed, intelligent decision about what to do. What you should do now: Read this Free Legal Consumer Guide. You should be informed before you talk to an attorney. Call an attorney. At least get an initial consultation to discuss the unique facts of your situation. The best solutions come from applying the law to the facts of your case. No book can do that. Most attorneys offer a 1 hour consultation to discuss your case. You have many good choices in Southern Maryland. Of course, we hope you choose us! We want to be your family s attorney. Contact us today. Disclaimer: (1) Using this guide will not make you a lawyer, and is no substitute for hiring one. Do not represent yourself in any serious legal matter. (2) This guide gives general information and advice. Effective legal advice requires understanding the unique facts of your situation, and applying the law to those facts. (3) Using this guide does not create an attorney-client relationship with our firm. The only way to do that is by meeting with us. (4) The legal advice and information in this guide applies only to Maryland.
3 3 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation AUTHOR PAGE Tucker Clagett is a partner at Andrews, Bongar, Gormley & Clagett. He has been practicing law since 1994, concentrating in workers compensation, personal injury, and civil litigation. See his full bio on our website at /about -us/tucker-clagett David Hebb has been practicing law since 2006, all of that time here with us. He concentrates in bankruptcy, civil litigation and criminal law. See his bio at /about -us/david-hebb is one of the oldest and largest law firms in Southern Maryland serving clients for 50 years. We have more attorneys and a larger staff than other local law firms. That means we can help you and your family in a wider variety of legal matters. Each attorney concentrates in a few key areas so you get the expertise you need, and the personal service you want.
4 4 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation TABLE OF CONTENTS Why You Should Always Consult With an Attorney 6 What is Workers Compensation?.. 7 Who Decides If I Get Workers Compensation?. 8 You Are Not Suing Your Boss.. 8 Injuries Covered by Workers Comp.. 9 Benefits You Get in Workers Comp. 10 Medical Coverage 11 Lost Wages.. 11 Permanent Partial Disability. 12 Vocational Rehabilitation.. 14 Getting Workers Comp Step By Step.. 15 How A Lawyer Can Help. 19 How A Lawyer Is Paid.. 21 Copyright 2013
5 5 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation H ave you have been injured on the job in Maryland? If so, you are probably entitled to receive benefits under the Workers Compensation system. Do not let your employer or their insurance company deny your rights. Benefits you need, such as paying your medical bills and getting paid while you cannot physically work, make the workers comp system valuable to the injured worker. But you have to know your rights, take the proper actions, and jump through the right hoops, to protect your benefits. Many injured employees are denied their benefits by some insurance company simply because they do not know their rights, and do not know how to enforce those rights. Do not let that happen to you. Read on and you will learn what your rights are, how to enforce them, and what to do now. Even if you think you are getting what you are due, read on to be sure. You may like and trust your employer, but they are not the ones paying you. An insurance company is paying you, and you cannot always trust them to be fair with your case. It is not in their best interests.
6 6 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation I can promise you the insurance company will act in their best interests, not yours. You have to stand up for your rights. All of our consultations about workers compensation and personal injury are FREE. You have nothing to lose. WHY YOU SHOULD ALWAYS CONSULT WITH AN ATTORNEY We hope you read this guide, and we hope it helps you understand your rights, but the very first thing you need to do after reading it is call an attorney. It s free! Many people think they cannot afford an attorney. But a consultation for a workers compensation case is always free, by law! An attorney is not legally allowed to charge you for a consultation because attorney s fees are strictly regulated by the Workers Comp Commission. We can only charge you if we win benefits for you, and only then if it is approved by the Workers Compensation Commission. And the attorney is always paid some portion of the amount you recover. You have absolutely nothing to lose by calling an attorney for a consultation. Our fees are contingent on your recovery. The attorney usually gets paid a portion of permanent disability benefits, which you get at the end of the case.
7 7 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation We personally take a soft sell approach to consultations. We are happy to meet with you, and explain the law and how it applies to your situation. We will advise you on the best course of action. This is not a teaser. If you do not want to sign up after that meeting, or if you just want to think about it, that is fine with us. All in all, it makes sense to at least consult an attorney for your workers compensation case. If you cannot get here, you can call on the phone. Make sure you know all the benefits you are supposed to get. WHAT IS WORKERS COMPENSATION? Workers Compensation is the legal system which provides benefits to injured workers. It is a State law. The Workers Compensation system is administered by the Workers Compensation Commission. The Commission is an administrative arm of Maryland state government and all claims for workers compensation must be filed with it. Every employer in Maryland must have workers comp insurance. The insurance company is the one who pays the benefits the State forces them to pay under the law. Many employees mistakenly call the insurance company workers comp, and think all they need is a claim with them. This is technically wrong, and can cause you a lot of trouble later!
8 8 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation If you do not have a formal claim on file with the Maryland Workers Comp Commission, your claim is not valid yet! (This is not the same as your claim with the insurance company. See below for more on this important distinction.) WHO DECIDES IF I GET WORKERS COMPENSATION? The decision makers at the Workers Comp Commission are the Commissioners. They are specially trained in the law and act as the Judges in any dispute involving the Workers Compensation system. So if the insurance company doesn t agree to pay you, or allow you to get medical treatment, you can have a hearing before the Commissioner, who will decide the case for you. These hearings are similar to a Court trial, but less formal. Do not try to handle a hearing on your own. Get an attorney. YOU ARE NOT SUING YOUR BOSS Don t worry you aren t suing anybody. Filing a workers comp claim is more like filing an insurance claim. State law forces every employer to have workers compensation insurance. This insurance covers you if you are injured. By seeking benefits through workers compensation, you are just filing a claim against the insurance company!
9 9 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation Any dispute you have is usually with the insurance company, not your boss. In fact, the law says you cannot sue your boss in civil court, even if he or she caused your accident. You must go through workers comp. (Of course, there are exceptions to this rule, but they are rare. Exceptions like this are what makes it important to have that free consultation.) Please note that you can often sue someone other than your employer if they caused your accident while you were working. See a lawyer for more details if this happened to you. INJURIES COVERED IN THE WORKERS COMP SYSTEM Not every injury on the job is covered by Workers Comp. However, most on the job injuries will be covered. Keep in mind this is a general explanation. Every factual situation is different and we cannot possibly list all the facts that may be relevant to your case. Do not decide on your own that your particular case does not fit in the system. If you have any questions about your particular case, you should call for a free consultation. The most common covered injuries are accidental injuries. This covers most accidents at work, but there are some exceptions. Only an attorney who regularly handles Workers Compensation cases can truly tell you if your case is covered.
10 10 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation Another large category of Workers Compensation cases is Occupational Diseases. Occupational diseases occur when there is no accident or sudden event giving rise to your injury, but rather the injury comes from some slow exposure to a hazard that you are exposed to on the job. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a good example of an occupational disease. BENEFITS YOU GET Again, certain occupational diseases are covered and some are not, depending on the rules and exceptions to the rules governing those cases. We know we are repeating ourselves, but please call an attorney for a free consultation to find out if your case is covered. There are three benefits to which all Workers Compensation claimants are entitled. Many people know about the first two, but almost no injured worker knows about the third (unless they have been through the system before). And there is a possible fourth benefit if you have specific needs. If you have a case and do not have an attorney, make sure you are receiving each of the following benefits from the insurance company. If you are not, you should seek the advice of an attorney immediately.
11 11 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation Medical Coverage: The most valuable benefit you get is coverage for all medical treatment resulting from the injury. You are entitled to the best medical care you can get and the insurance company must pay for it. You can choose your own treating doctor. You do not have to use the doctor they tell you to use. In the DC and Baltimore area, that means you can choose from some of the best doctors in the world. You should take advantage of that! The doctor must bill the workers compensation insurance company directly. You should never have to pay yourself. This medical coverage lasts for life if necessary and causally related to the original injury. Lost Wages: The insurance company must cover part of your lost wages if you cannot work because of your on the job injury. This benefit is called temporary total disability (often referred to as TT of TTD ). The insurance company has to pay two-thirds of your average wages for the time period you are off work as a result of your injury. That is not taxable so it is not as bad as it sounds at first.
12 12 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation They must pay you as long as a doctor says you should not be working. If your doctor believes you should not be working, he or she should give you a disability slip. You should give copies of your disability slips to your employer and the insurance company so that you will both be excused from work and paid your temporary total disability benefits. Keep the original yourself. Please note that your average wages are calculated by gross wages (pre-tax), not the net pay you take home after taxes. Permanent Partial Disability Benefits: The third benefit to which most injured workers are entitled is permanent partial disability benefits. This is the one few people know about unless an attorney tells them. Once you have reached maximum medical improvement (when you are as recovered as possible from your injury), you can file for and receive these permanent partial disability benefits. Do not confuse this with permanent disability in a social security case. Permanent Partial Disability is a legal term when used in reference to workers comp. It does not mean you can never work again.
13 13 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation Permanent partial disability payments usually make up the most money you will receive on your claim. These payments are based on the percentage of disability you have, as calculated by a doctor (usually not your treating doctor). The law sets out a rather complex formula based on this rating and your average weekly wage. The end result is a certain amount of money, which is paid directly to you to compensate you for your injury, and your lack of future employability because of your injury. Even if you think you are fine after you recover, you will likely be entitled to some amount of money for your case. You should ask an attorney before deciding this yourself. Receiving permanent partial disability benefits is where an attorney can really help you, even if you do not have one before this point. It involves a complex formula and requires you to be rated by an independent doctor. Your attorney can set this up. And your attorney will help you counter the insurance company s attempts to make this payment as low as possible. If you try to do this on your own, you will never get as much as you should.
14 14 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation After you receive your rating, there are many creative ways your case can be settled. Settlement is tricky however. We would never recommend anyone settle their Workers Compensation case without talking to an attorney. It can be disastrous if not done correctly. Vocational Rehabilitation: If your doctor feels that you cannot return to your old job because of your injury, you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation. If so, the insurance company will provide you with a job counselor, who will assist you in finding a job that you can do with your injury. The help of a trained expert such as this can be very valuable in helping you find work. The insurance company must also pay you temporary total disability benefits (the lost wages we discussed earlier) during the time you are on vocational rehabilitation. Other Benefits: Other benefits may apply in certain situations. If you have a question about whether or not a benefit is provided in your case, please call an attorney to find out for free.
15 15 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation GETTING WORKERS COMP STEP BY STEP 1. Call An Attorney For A Free Consultation: Call an attorney who handles workers compensation cases. All consultations regarding workers compensation accidents are free. The attorney only gets paid if you decide to hire them and they win your case for you. Therefore, you have nothing to lose in at least making a phone call to an attorney so that a professional can guide you through the initial steps of your claim. There is no reason to do this on your own. 2. Report Your Injury: You must report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. If you are hurt, no matter how small the incident, you should notify your supervisor immediately. Failure to give notice to your employer can potentially bar your Workers Compensation claim. 3. See Your Doctor: Do not delay medical treatment. Safeguarding your health is the most important aspect of a Workers Compensation claim. The money and your legal case are secondary considerations. Getting yourself fixed should be your primary goal.
16 16 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation Also, insurance companies may not look favorably on your claim if you delay in seeking medical treatment. The insurance company will assume that a truly injured person would seek medical care promptly. They may be suspicious of your claim if there is a gap between the time you claim you were injured and the time you actually seek medical care. 4. Be Careful What You Say: Be very careful when talking to your boss or an insurance company prior to seeing an attorney. You should probably see an attorney before you give any formal statement to an insurance company regarding your on the job accident. Insurance companies often try to tape record a statement from you over the phone. Don t do this without seeking an attorney s advice. You may say something in a very innocent manner which may be construed against you later. When in doubt, call an attorney. Remember, it is a free consultation.
17 17 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation 5. File A Claim Form With The Workers Compensation Commission: You must file an official claim form with the Workers Compensation Commission located in Baltimore. This is different from filing a claim with your employer or the insurance company. If you do not have this official claim on file, with the Maryland Workers Compensation Commission, your claim could be barred. If you have a dispute with the insurance company, your ability to request a hearing may be delayed. Many clients come to us after having a work related injury which the insurance company is (at least in the beginning) covering. They are being paid for the time they are off work and their medical bills are being paid. They have filed a claim with the insurance company, but not with the Workers Comp Commission in Baltimore. This is not sufficient to protect your legal rights. You must file this claim within two years from the date of accident or disablement. If you do not have a claim on file, I will be happy to file a claim for you online, over the phone, even if you do not want to hire me. I believe in the system, and I believe you need to have a claim on file to protect yourself. Call me to at least discuss it.
18 18 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation You can also write the Maryland Workers Compensation Commission at 10 East Baltimore Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21201, or visit them online at 6. Make Sure You Are Receiving Your Benefits From The Insurance Company: Read the previous section of this guide dealing with benefits. Make sure they are covering your medical bills and paying you for 2/3 of your lost wages. After your doctor releases you, make sure you receive permanent disability benefits (and get an attorney for this part if for nothing else). Know when to ask for benefits such as vocational rehabilitation. If you have any problems with the insurance company or questions about your benefits, call an attorney. Remember, consultations are free. I cannot speak for everyone, but I promise I will not put sales pressure on you.
19 19 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation 7. Get Well And Get Back To Work Soon: Of course everyone wants you to get well soon, but I m not just saying this to be nice. Workers compensation is a money losing game. You will never get as much money on workers comp as you will if you are healthy and working full time. HOW A LAWYER CAN HELP Workers Compensation benefits are designed to help you scrape by when you don t have anything else. Nobody gets rich off a Workers Compensation Claim, at least not in Maryland. Your primary goal should be to recover quickly and get back to work as soon as possible. Workers compensation can be complicated. I do not advise you to do it on your own. Most other lawyers do not handle these cases because they are time consuming and involve a whole new set of rules and regulations. If most lawyers won t even handle them, you should think twice before trying to handle your own. You have to see a lawyer who knows what they are doing with Maryland Workers Compensation.
20 20 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation First, an attorney can tell you whether or not your accident is covered. An attorney who knows workers compensation will know all the rules and exceptions to the rules. Second, an attorney can assist you with the process of filing for and obtaining Workers Compensation benefits. If you do not file within 2 years of the date of accident, you may be forever prevented from raising your claim. And if you don t file one promptly, your rights can be delayed. You do not want to mess this up. As you have probably guessed from reading this article, Workers Compensation is an administrative process requiring you to file a lot of forms and fit within a lot of rules and guidelines. An attorney has all of these forms and knows the rules and guidelines. An attorney who knows Workers Compensation law will make sure your case is not harmed because of your failure to follow some purely administrative process, or because you filed the wrong form. That can happen in Workers Comp world, and will mess up your case.
21 21 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation Third (and most importantly), an attorney can also make sure that you receive the benefits you deserve under the law. Someone who knows Workers Compensation law will know the benefits to which you are entitled and will know how to maximize them. Few of our workers comp clients have a smooth, trouble free claim. The insurance company will not always give you what you need. A small glitch for them can mean a missed mortgage payment for you because you rely on those benefits while out of work. If this ever happens to you, seek an attorney s advice immediately. HOW A LAWYER IS PAID Remember, you do not have to pay any money up front to hire an attorney. The attorney is usually paid on a contingent basis - out of your permanent disability benefits at the end of your case. The amount an attorney can collect from your case is regulated by Maryland law. All workers comp attorneys get paid the same amount according to what the law allows. The attorney s fee is a contingent fee, which means a percentage of your permanent disability benefits at the end of the case.
22 22 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation We feel very confident that an attorney pays for themselves in a workers compensation case. You will almost never receive as much in permanent disability benefits if you do not have an attorney. Since consultations regarding workers compensation are free, and since you are not obligated to pay the attorney out of your pocket at the beginning of your case, you really have very little to lose in at least seeking the opinion of an attorney about your case. We strongly urge anyone involved in a work related accident to contact an attorney, whether it is us or another attorney who handles these cases. What You Should Do Now Contact us any time to set up a free consultation. It can be in person or by phone. You may also us with any questions you may have regarding an on the job injury. We will answer your questions without charge or obligation. We hope you have found this article informative. Whether you decide to retain our services or the services of someone else, we wish you a speedy recovery from your injury.
23 23 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation LOCAL RESOURCES Southern Maryland has a lot of great non-profit organizations that can help you and your family if you are facing a need. These are a few we know, trust, and highly recommend. Legal Aid Bureau: legal services without cost United Way of Charles County: has the definitive list of local Human Services Agencies right on their website. Lifestyles of Maryland: They pretty much do it all, or can refer you to someone who can. Housing, food, medical, financial, employment, transportation, etc College of Southern Maryland: A lot more than classes! They provide fitness, and give health & wellness classes for all ages Greater Baden Medical Services: primary health care or Health Partners Free Clinic: primary health care services or
24 24 What You Need To Know About Workers Compensation THE FREE LEGAL CONSUMER GUIDE SERIES at Everything You Need To Know About Car Accident Cases What You Need to Know About Bankruptcy and Foreclosure What You Need to Know About Divorce and Child Custody What You Need to Know About Workers Compensation What You Need to Know About DUI & DWI How To Handle A Traffic Ticket Why You Need A Will & What To Do About It How to Handle Your Own Small Claims Case GET MORE FREE LEGAL ADVICE Sign up for our free monthly newsletter, with more legal advice, tips on how to keep your family safe, and our insiders commentary on newsworthy legal events like sensational crimes and new laws. Find the sign up form on our home page. You can also see past examples of our newsletters.
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