I Hurt Myself at Work; What Can an Attorney Really Do for Me?
Getting hurt is no fun. Neither is trying to fight an insurance company who doesn't want to pay you. There are various issues that can present themselves in Work Comp law; this article will give a brief overview of some of the issues that an attorney can help you understand.
Is Your Employer Actually an Employer That Must Carry Work Comp Insurance?
Generally, most "employers" must have Work Comp insurance if they have "employees." I put those words in quotes because there are situations where you may actually be considered an "independent contractor." Furthermore, there are certain types of employees and employers that are exempt by statute, such as certain family farms and situations where the employment is "casual" and outside of the "usual course" of the employer's business.
"Arising Out of" and "In the Course of Employment;" Is Your Injury Even Covered by Work Comp?
Generally speaking, to be covered by Work Comp, an employee must sustain an injury or develop an occupational disease that: (1) arises out of the employment, and (2) occurs in the scope of employment.
In order to arise out of employment, there needs to be a causal connection between the employment and the injury. Some hypothetical examples of where this may not be present are: (1) certain acts of God, (2) certain injuries occurring while on your way to work, and (3) certain injuries caused by a third party while at work (oh no, I got beat up by someone at work!).
In addition to arising out of employment, an injury must occur within the scope of employment. Generally speaking, this refers to the time that you're actually "on the clock," where you're supposed to be, and doing what you're supposed to be doing.
Did You Know? Work Comp Edition
Did you know that even a pre-existing condition can be covered by Work Comp if your current employment is a "substantial contributing factor" to a further aggravation?
Did you know that an injury brought about by repeated use can be covered by the Work Comp law, and that a specific "accident" isn't necessary?
Did you know that a disease that your employment puts you at particular risk of acquiring can be covered?
Did you know that an injury caused by a prior work injury can be covered if it is a "direct and natural consequence" of your first injury?
Did you know that if you fall on a hard and flat surface, you will *not* be covered?
I think you get the picture here. There are all sorts of details that can matter: have an attorney look at your case!
Assuming that an injury is covered by Work Comp, there are various benefits available to the injured worker. One category is wage-loss, and there are 3 different wage loss benefits.
Temporary Total Disability: this is what it sounds like. You're totally unable to work for a period of time. When this occurs, the benefit pays out 2/3 of what your average weekly wage was at the time of the injury. So, if you made $600 a week when injured, you would receive $400 a week. These benefits can last up to 130 weeks. Furthermore, there are various ways that you can lose these benefits, such as refusing an offer of work, "voluntarily withdrawing from the labor market," or reaching "maximum medical improvement."
Permanent Total Disability: think of this as a permanent inability to "secure anything more than sporadic employment resulting in an insubstantial income." Minn. Stat. 176.101, subd. 5. A benefit of 2/3 your average weekly wage may be available until "retirement." Currently, for all new injuries since October, retirement is presumptive at the age of 72, unless you were injured after the age of 67.
Temporary Partial Disability: this is when one is temporarily limited in their capacity to work, but not totally. Such an employee may be able to receive this wage loss benefit when they are working a job, but not making as much as they were before the injury. When this occurs, the benefit is 2/3 of the difference. So, if you made $900 a week when injured, and you currently only make $300 a week due to the injury, you could receive $400 a week in benefits (900-300=600 x 2/3). These benefits may be available for up to 275 weeks.
Permanent Partial Disability
Essentially, certain injuries are given a permanency rating, found in Minn. Admin R. chapter 5223. For example, an "amputation below [the] knee joint, four inches or less below intercondylar notch" is given a 34% rating.
These ratings are then applied to a certain pool of money. For example, a 34% rating for an injury occurring since October of 2018 is tied to a pool of $115,500. Multiply the percentage (.34) by the dollar amount (115,500) and the payout would be $39,270.
Other Various Benefits
Other various benefits in Work Comp can include death and dependency benefits, medical benefits, rehabilitation benefits, and retraining.
Mr. Legal Mustache, This All Seems So Complicated!
It certainly can be. There is an entire Deskbook written about Work Comp for Minnesota attorneys. Do *you* want to try to figure this all out? Or would you rather hire an attorney to help you with your case?
The answer seems pretty clear: if injured at work, call me at (651) 337-9876 or email me at [email protected] for a free consultation.