Tag Archives: work comp

Do I Need a Work Comp Attorney?

If you have suffered a workplace injury, you may be wondering whether or not you need a workers’ compensation attorney. How much does it cost? Where do I start? These are important questions since your physical and financial well-being can be heavily impacted by a workplace injury.

It may seem counterintuitive to ask an attorney if you need an attorney. Most would assume a workers’ compensation lawyer will always tell you “yes, you need an attorney.” But here, my goal is to give you a few neutral guidelines to help you make the decision yourself.

First: Do I Need A Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?

There is no quick answer to this question, because everyone’s case is different. However, you can assess your needs by considering (1) the seriousness of your workplace injury and (2) the general pros and cons of hiring an attorney.

Seriousness & Complexity

The more serious your injury is or the more complex your situation (such as if you have variable hours, are a seasonal worker or independent contractor) the more likely you should seek out an attorney.

Minor Injuries / Accepted Claims

If you suffered a very minor injury on the job and your employer is cooperating with paying your claim, your need for an attorney may not be as great as others. At this stage, a workman’s comp lawyer can help keep your case on track, alleviate your workload, and make sure your employer continues to comply with the law. Often employers pay the workers’ compensation claim in the beginning, but then they unilaterally decide you should no longer be getting benefits (and one thing is for sure, your employer should not be making decisions about your health and well-being. If this happens, seek an advocate for your rights).

Also, keep in mind that an injury that initially appears to be minimal can have long-term, lasting impacts. Get informed before you are asked to sign anything that would take away your rights to workers’ compensation in the future.

Other Injuries / Denied Claims

If you suffered an injury that is more than minor, a lot is at stake. This is your physical and financial health we are talking about, and it cannot be taken lightly. A workman’s compensation lawyer knows the law, knows the tactics of employer and insurers, and will be your best option for protecting your interests.

Here are a few concrete events that mean you have a complexity in your case that should require a consultation with an attorney:

  • You receive a Notice to Discontinue Benefits
  • Your initial claim was denied
  • You are not able return to work or return to a job with the same pay
  • You were fired or retaliated against because of your claim
  • Your employer wants to settle your claim, especially if you are still in pain, seeking medical treatment, or losing wages

Pros & Cons of Hiring an Attorney

If you are wondering whether you need to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer, you probably have a number of practical questions about what your attorney will do on the case. Here are some of the primary benefits and disadvantages to hiring a workman’s compensation lawyer.

Pros:

An attorney will:

  • Take care of paperwork, phone calls, and meetings
  • Mediate difficulties with your employer
  • Make sure all deadlines are met
  • Save you the time of learning this complex, detailed area of the law
  • Keep your employer and its insurer from dragging its feet and slowing down your claim
  • Maximize the amount of your benefits and settlements

Workers’ compensation lawyers usually specialize in this area of the law, so they most likely have experience working with your employer’s insurer. This means they know how to best deal with the insurer and can predict what they will do.

Cons:

The only real con to hiring an attorney is what you may be worried about the most: the cost. However, it is important to understand that workers’ compensation lawyers are usually not paid like other lawyers.

Injured workers often cannot afford to hire an attorney (after all, they are probably losing wages and incurring medical costs), so most workers’ compensation lawyers are paid on what is called a “contingency fee basis” – which means that clients do not pay hourly attorney fees or pay an upfront agreed upon dollar amount. Instead, your attorney gets paid only if you get paid. They are also bound to statutory fee maximums in many circumstances.

If you set up a consultation with a workers’ compensation lawyer, they should tell you all this information up front.

Second: What to Look For In a Work Comp Lawyer?

Lastly, here are a few general rules of thumb when looking for a workman’s compensation attorney:

  1. Find an attorney that is well-respected in his or her community.
  2. Find an attorney who will give a free consultation. Think of this as interviewing your attorney to see if he or she is the right fit for you. You shouldn’t have to pay to see if you want to hire someone.
  3. Find an attorney that you feel comfortable with. You will be sharing information about your finances, medical health, and many other important factors to your claim.
  4. Find an attorney that listens to what you are saying and that you feel confident in. You should walk away from your consultation feeling heard and comfortable handing your claim over to your work comp attorney.
  5. Find out if your attorney specializes in workers’ compensation. Attorneys who specialize in workers’ compensation should have the best know-how and experience in handling work comp insurers. This can be a great advantage to your claim.

You may want to check out avvo.com and lawyers.com to find out more about potential workers’ compensation lawyers.

And as always, if you are in the greater Minneapolis / St. Paul area, our attorneys have extensive experience in handling workman’s compensation claims and are available to discuss your case. To speak with a Minnesota attorney on the workers’ compensation team at Heimerl & Lammers, contact us at 612.294.2200.

Young Woman Suffering From Backache

Employees Eligible for Work Comp Benefits

There are two fundamental requirements for workman’s compensation eligibility. You must have a workplace injury and be an eligible employee.

(1) You Must Be Injured

The first requirement is quite obvious: you must have a workplace injury. This requirement sounds deceptively simple. Most people assume one of the following:

  • “I was injured on work property, and therefore, I have a workplace injury”
  • “I wasn’t on work property when I was injured, so I do not have a workplace injury”

Don’t be so quick to judge your situation.

Under Minnesota workers’ compensation law, a workplace injury does not always mean that the injury happened at your employer’s property or primary place of business. It may occur off-premise. The opposite is also true. Sometimes an injury that occurred at your workplace is not a compensable injury (a “compensable injury” means an injury that is covered under workman’s comp).

However, if you are an injured worker and the injury occurred while on the clock or at your workplace, that is a good indicator that you need to report your injury to your employer and file for workers’ compensation benefits. The worst mistake you can make is assuming that your injury is not covered, and then be stuck with thousands of dollars in medical bills for an injury that workman’s compensation should have covered.

If your employer or its insurer tells you that you don’t have a workplace injury, a compensability injury, or they simply deny your claim, get in touch with a workers’ compensation lawyer as soon as possible. Remember, the worker’s compensation insurer is trying NOT to pay you.

(2) You Generally Must Have an Employee-Employer Relationship

The second requirement also seems deceptively simple. You usually must be in an employer-employee relationship. This means that if you are a volunteer, independent contractor, etc. that you may not be eligible for benefits.

However, don’t be too quick to judge here either. To determine whether you are eligible for workers’ compensation, you need to look beyond the labels your employer gives you.

A great example of how labels don’t necessarily make or break your case are the recent rulings relating to Uber. You may remember that earlier this summer, it was headline news that California’s labor commission decided that Uber drivers are employees. Uber considered its drivers to be independent contractors, but the commission looked past the label the company gave the drivers and looked at what the day-to-day job really looked like.

The Uber decision was not a workers’ compensation case, but the legal evaluation of whether there is an employer-employee relationship is similar. Simply put, do not be led to believe you are not eligible for Minnesota workers’ compensation simply because your employer or its insurer says you are not covered.

Taking Action: What Should You Do Now?

When it comes to workman’s compensation, your employer and its insurer are not on your side. Even the best of employers will work hard to keep costs down, and we all know that insurance companies will fight tooth and nail to avoid paying claims.

Your health is too important to let your employer and its insurer make decisions for you. Take these next steps to help protect yourself:

  1. Report your workplace injuries to your employer as soon as possible.
  2. Don’t wait to seek medical attention. Take care of yourself!
  3. Get informed about your rights. Our Basics Series is aimed at giving you a quick overview of workman’s compensation. You may want to start there.
  4. Determine if you need a worker’s compensation attorney. After a workplace injury, it is never too early to get a free consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney. Even if your claim has not been denied, having a lawyer can keep things moving quickly and keeps the insurer on their toes. Many employees find that the insurance company tries to jerk them around. A workman’s compensation lawyer can address these issues.

Minneapolis Work Comp Lawyer

If you are interested in obtaining a workmans’ compensation lawyer, many offer free consultations. At Heimerl & Lammers, we have an experienced team of workers’ compensation lawyers ready to discuss your case during our free consultations. You can reach us at 612-294-2200 to schedule one. Let us fight for your rights!

Statute of Limitations on a Work Injury in Minnesota 3 Must-Know Facts

What if my Employer Does Not Have Work Comp Insurance?

Employees who are injured on the job can get their medical bills paid and receive wage replacement as well as other benefits by making a work comp claim.

In Minnesota, nearly all employers are legally required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workmen’s compensation insurance works a lot like other insurance that you may be more familiar with (e.g. car insurance, homeowners insurance, etc.). Employers must pay a premium in order to receive coverage.

For some employers, it is just too tempting to save money in the short term by not carrying coverage. Money saved…or so your employer may think. Other employers may simply have allowed their coverage to lapse or they are ignorant of the law.

Regardless of why or how an employer ends up without workers’ compensation insurance, the impact on you as the injured employee can be significant. Who will pay your medical bills? What about all of those days you missed from work?

The good news is that Minnesota’s work comp system anticipated this problem and it created the Special Compensation Fund.

The Special Compensation Fund’s Role in Minnesota Workman’s Comp

The Special Compensation Fund investigates employers who may not have workers’ compensation insurance. Failure to carry coverage can result in fines to the employer. If your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, you can seek work comp coverage from the Special Compensation Fund. In return, the Special Compensation Fund will attempt to get reimbursed from your employer.

Therefore, all is not lost for an injured employee who finds out his or her employer does not have workers’ compensation.

The Practical Steps

First, use Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry’s workers’ compensation insurance verification tool. When employers refuse to provide worker’s compensation information, this is a great tool to determine whether or not they are carrying coverage. However, the Department of Labor warns not to assume your employer does not have coverage if they are not on the list.

Second, if your employer is operating without workers’ compensation insurance, report them to the Department of Labor & Industry. The Special Compensation Fund will then begin an investigation.

Third, if your employer is confirmed to be uninsured, you can claim workers’ compensation benefits from the Special Compensation Fund. This includes wage loss benefits, such as temporary total disability or temporary partial disability, and other benefits like medical coverage.

Keep in mind that the Special Compensation Fund has limited means and funds. Therefore, like a workman’s compensation insurance company, it has the motive to minimize the wages and medical benefits it pays out. Often, it is beneficial for an employee of an uninsured employer to seek out the help of a workers’ compensation attorney. This helps to ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to after a workplace injury.

As always, our team of Minneapolis workers’ compensation lawyers, including Benjamin Heimerl, Mike Lammers, and Amy Robertson, are available to discuss your case during a free consultation. We are here to help fight for your rights.

Work Comp Insurer

Basic Work Comp Terminology

In any type of legal case, you are bound to hear a lot of legalese. By literal definition, legalese is a formal and technical language that is often hard to understand. You are not alone if you need a quick and easy definition of common legal terms.

Here, I’m going to provide you with a quick overview of some of the most common terms you are going to hear during the course of your Minnesota worker’s compensation claim.

Administrative Conference

A meeting where a staff member of the Office of Administrative Hearings will help the employee, employer, and insurer discuss the issues and resolve differences.

Apportionment

Apportionment refers to dividing the costs related to your injury among two or more employers or insurers. In certain circumstances, apportionment may also reduce your benefits because of a pre-existing injury.

Compensable Injury

A compensable injury is an injury that an employer is responsible to pay for under Minnesota workers’ compensation law. Sometimes there is a dispute about whether or not an employer should really be responsible for paying for an injury.

Consequential Injury

A consequential injury is a secondary injury that is related to and stems from your original work injury. For example, you injure your right leg at work, and as a result, you tend to put more weight on your left leg. Later, you need a knee replacement in your left knee because of the extra strain and use.

Date of Injury (“DOI”)

A date of injury or DOI is usually straight forward: it is the date you were injured. However, special rules may apply to determine your date of injury for legal purposes if you have certain kinds of injuries.

Deposition

A deposition is out-of-court testimony usually held at an attorney’s office. The individual being deposed will be asked to answer questions about his or her injury in the presence of the attorneys and a court reporter.

Discovery

Discovery is a phase where the parties can formally obtain information from each other. There are multiple ways parties can obtain information, such as requesting documents from the other party or deposing a witness.

Gillette Injuries

A Gillette injury is an injury that has no single, identifiable incident that caused your injury. A Gillette injury usually occurs when you do a repetitive action so frequently that over time it causes an injury. Carpal tunnel syndrome is an example of this kind of injury.

Idiopathic Injuries

An idiopathic injury is an injury that is spontaneous, doesn’t have a clear cause, or is caused by a personal health condition.

Independent Medical Examination (“IME”)

An independent medical examination is a medical exam requested by a party to the case that you see a doctor of their choosing. This allows that party’s doctor to evaluate your injury.

Medical Benefits

Medical benefits are benefits available to you under Minnesota workers’ compensation if you are injured and require medical care. This refers to payment of medical costs, such as doctor’s visits or therapy.

Occupational Disease

Occupational diseases develop as the result of your employment. To be a work-related disease, your workplace conditions must put you at greater risk of contracting the illness than those who are in the general public.

Office of Administrative Hearings (“OAH”)

The Office of Administrative Hearings (“OAH”) is an independent tribunal under the executive branch of government. OAH handles workman’s compensation cases and often conducts hearings in Duluth, Walker, Alexandria, Mankato, Rochester, and Saint Paul.

Permanency Rating

Employees who are permanently injured may be assigned a “permanency rating.” This is a percent given that represents the loss of a bodily function. The more severe your permanent injury, the higher your permanency rating. The rating is then used to calculate the amount of money you are entitled to because of your permanent loss.

Qualitative Rehabilitation Consultant (“QRC”)

A qualified rehabilitation consultant is a counselor whose job it is to help you get back to work and earning a pay check again as well as facilitate communications between employers and doctors.

Settlement

A settlement is a voluntary agreement between the parties to not pursue the claim in court in exchange for the agreed upon settlement terms.

Statute of Limitations

In work comp,  a statute of limitation sets a time limit on how long injured employees have to initiate a workers’ compensation claim.

Work Comp Benefits

How Long Can You Receive Work Comp Benefits?

There are multiple types of benefits you can receive under Minnesota Workers’ Compensation. How long you may be able to receive benefits depends on the type of benefits you are seeking.

When my clients ask how long they will receive benefits, they are most commonly referring to wage loss benefits. These are the benefits that help cover wage losses due to your work injury. Reasons you may have wage losses can include time you are completely off work or only working a portion of your regular hours. You could also qualify for wage loss benefits if you are working a lower paying position due to your work injury.

Minnesota’s workman’s comp does not provide indefinite wage loss benefits. Injured workers can only receive benefits for a limited amount of time. The exact duration depends on the type of wage loss you have.

Temporary Total Disability (TTD)

Temporary total disability (TTD) are available when you are totally unable to work because of your work injury. Usually, your doctor will tell you not to work for a specific period of time. Temporary total disability benefits may also apply if your doctor has given you light duty restrictions, but your employer will not allow you to come back to work until you are fully healed.

For injuries sustained after 2008, you may receive up to 130 weeks of temporary total disability unless you have a retraining plan. Whether you are an injured worker entitled to the maximum amount of TTD depends on the specific facts of your case.

Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)

Temporary partial disability (TPD) are wage loss benefits that apply when you are making some wages but you are making less than you were before your injury. This could occur because your workplace injury is causing you to work fewer hours than you were pre-injury or because you are earning less per hour.

If you have a wage loss immediately after your injuries and if your injury occurred after 1992, you may be eligible for up to 225 weeks of temporary partial benefits. Just like with TTD benefits though, whether you will receive the maximum amount of benefits depends on your specific situation.

Permanent Total Disability (PTD)

Permanent total disability (PTD) benefits are available to injured workers who can never return to gainful employment. Because injured workers receiving PTD by definition can never return to gainful employment, the maximum duration of benefits works differently than with other workman’s compensation wage loss benefits.

Permanent total disability benefits are presumed to end at the time you reach 67 years old. This is because Minnesota workers’ compensation laws presume that you will retire at 67 and, therefore, you have no more wage loss. However, this is only a presumption. A good lawyer may be able to extend the duration of your benefits past age 67.

Am I Automatically Entitled to the Maximum Benefit?

In short, no. Injured workers are not automatically entitled to the maximum amount of wage loss benefits.

For example, an employee may be injured at work and make a complete recovery within 6 weeks. The employee also returns to work without any restrictions and earns the same wages as he or she did before the injury. This would not automatically entitle him or her to 130 weeks of TTD or 225 weeks of TPD because there was no more wage loss after 6 weeks.

Your benefits may be “cut off” for multiple reasons before you reach the maximum allowance for any of the following reasons:

  • The injured worker returns to work at pre-injury wages
  • The employee’s doctor removes all restrictions,
  • The employee reaches maximum medical improvement

However, even a circumstance that looks cut and dry may have unique facts that mean an injured employee is entitled to more benefits than what the workers’ compensation insurance company is claiming.

What Can Workers’ Compensation Do For Me?

All of these benefits may be available to you depending on your injury and circumstances. Remember that this is just a general overview, so there are additional benefits and restrictions to these benefits that we have not discussed in this article.

If this overview has brought concerns to your attention about your workers’ compensation claim or you believe you are not receiving the workers comp benefits you should be receiving, we encourage you to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Our Minneapolis attorneys have extensive experience in handling workman’s compensation claims and are available to discuss your case. To speak with an attorney on the workers’ compensation team at Heimerl & Lammers, contact us at 612.294.2200.