The Workers’ Comp Plaintiff: Dispelling the Myths

Nobody wants to be injured on the job. Imagine what it’s like to be home and injured, removed from your normal routine, most likely in pain, going to doctor’s appointments and no longer able to support your family. The workers’ comp process can be fraught with stress and cause for frustration. Then imagine having your employer or claims professional treat you as if you were faking your injury or trying to cheat them out of money and you can begin to see why an injured worker might seek legal counsel.
Fortunately, in most workers’ comp cases, the above does not always happen and plaintiff attorneys are not called on to intervene. Clearing up some of the commonly held work comp myths and understanding some of the reasons an injured worker would seek legal counsel is a big step toward achieving the best possible outcome for all parties involved – without engaging an attorney. A conversation with a plaintiff attorney will tell you that it is important to understand what the employee has given up even Successful Businesses Examples before an injury has occurred. By the very nature of the workers’ comp, no-fault system, Tony West, J.D., with Klezmer Maudlin, P.C., explains that “What all employees have lost, before they are injured, is the right to sue their employers for negligence and to get the various benefits that would be available in a personal injury suit for negligence. This includes pain and suffering, 100% of lost wages, compensation for lost future wages. ” This can prove be a point of confusion time and again.
Plaintiff Attorney Stephen Wagner, with Wagner Reese & Crossen, shared what he believes to be some of the more common myths and misconceptions regarding workers’ comp claims.
The Myth: Employers often believe that if an employee was negligent or careless in causing their own injury their claim should be denied.
The Truth is: Workers’ comp is a no fault system. If the employee is injured by a co-worker or injures themselves it is still compensable. If you’re injured on the job you don’t have to prove somebody was at fault or if you were at fault, you can still recover. But the benefits you recover are lower than other types of tort cases. That’s part of the workers’ comp trade off.
The Myth: The employee can sue the employer for negligence or recklessness by the employer.
The Truth is: The employee cannot sue even if the employer is negligent or reckless. Even in egregious cases in factory settings where there are known dangerous conditions the employee What Is An Agreement has no cause of action against the employer. You cannot sue your employer for negligence in Indiana. The only possible exception is if the employer intentionally harms the employee.
The Myth: All claimants are faking or staging their injuries or engaging in fraud.
The Truth is: The vast majority of claims are not fraudulent at all. It is very rare. Because of the media attention given to Workers’ Comp fraud cases, people believe there’s a lot more fraud than there is. In a PBS-Frontline Dangerous Business article titled The Myth of Workers’ Compensation Fraud, it states that “only 1 to 2 percent of workers’ compensation claims are fraudulent.” Most injured workers are not looking for a free ride at their employer’s expense.
So if the workers’ comp system is a no-fault system one might wonder why or when a plaintiff attorney would be needed. There can be quite a laundry list of reasons from the employee’s perspective and it seems most of them could be avoided through better sharing of information and timely administration of the claim. According to Wagner, some of the most common reasons for contacting a plaintiff attorney are:
• “If there’s a very serious injury or death and a spouse is worried about their financial future and the benefits to which they might be entitled.
• If the injured worker thinks they’re being cheated or not being provided the benefits they are entitled to.
• If the disability checks are not being paid on time. That’s probably the biggest complaint and often times leads to a claimant hiring an attorney.
• Sometimes employees hire an attorney even when the claims adjuster has done everything right. If there is a serious injury and the employee is worried about their financial future, they may just want somebody giving them advice.
• The final reason someone might hire an attorney is a simple one and it applies in all businesses. If the claims professional is rude with the claimant or proceeds with the assumption that the claimant is faking it or that there’s fraud involved, then the claimant might take offense and contact an attorney. So simply treating people with respect and not assuming every case is a frivolous claim would reduce claimant’s attempts to hire an attorney.” Wagner offers this simple advice for employers that reads a bit like the Golden Rule. “Be courteous with the injured claimant, pay the benefits that are owed in a timely fashion and advise the claimant of their rights. Promptly file the forms with the work comp board. If the adjuster follows all the rules and deals with the claimant in good faith and courteously, the chances of a claimant hiring an attorney are greatly reduced. A little bit of compassion goes a long way to making the process run a lot smoother.”

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