WORKERS COMPENSATION – FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

I WAS INJURED AT WORK.  WHAT SHOULD I DO?

Seek medical attention as soon as possible.  Then, notify your supervisor of the injury and ask him/her to fill out a First Report of Injury.  In some cases, employers ask injured employees to see a particular doctor for an initial examination, but employees have the right to see a doctor of their choice.

Inform your doctor of how and where you were injured, explain your symptoms, and ask him/her to provide you with work restrictions, if appropriate.  Provide your employer with your work restrictions and follow your doctor’s treatment and recommendations.

Contact a McCarten Law Firm attorney to discuss your rights and the options available to you.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST TO HIRE A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ATTORNEY?

The attorneys at McCarten Law Firm represent clients in workers’ compensation cases on a contingency fee basis only. That means you pay nothing if our attorneys do not recover benefits on your behalf. Minnesota law determines the attorney fees paid in workers’ compensation cases. If our attorneys recover monetary benefits on your behalf, your attorney will receive 25% of the first $4,000 and 20% thereafter, up to a maximum of $13,000. If your case involves a medical or rehabilitation dispute only, the workers’ compensation insurance company is responsible for paying any attorney fees.

WHAT BENEFITS ARE AVAILABLE?

The benefits received are dependent on the severity of the injury and the amount of time away from work.  At a minimum, all reasonable medical bills should be covered by Workers’ Compensation.  Here is a brief summary of benefits available:

  1. If you miss work temporarily
    You receive two-thirds of your wage loss for up to 130 weeks. This is called Temporary Total Disability and it begins if you miss more than three days of work. However, there is a maximum on this benefit, currently at $850.00 per week.
  2. If you return at a lower wage
    You receive two-thirds of the difference between your old wage and new wage for up to 225 weeks.
  3. If your injury is permanent
    You receive Permanent Partial Disability payments when your physician assigns a disability rating to your injury.
    In addition, if you are never able to return to work as a result of either a specific or a gradual wear and tear work injury, then you may be entitled to Permanent Total (long term) Disability benefits on a weekly basis subject to the maximum rate of $850.00 per week. This benefit is reduced by any Social Security disability benefits received and this benefit is usually only payable to age 67.
  4. If you need help going back to work
    You may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation services provided by a qualified rehabilitation consultant (QRC) to document your doctor’s restrictions and assist you in returning to work. You may even be entitled to retraining benefits.

ARE ALL ON-THE-JOB INJURIES COVERED BY WORKERS’ COMPENSATION?

Mostly.  The Workers’ Compensation system in Minnesota is set up to provide benefits to injured workers, regardless of whether the injury is caused by an employer or employee’s fault.  That said, there are some limits to what the law covers.  For example, injuries resulting from the actions of an intoxicated employee will generally not be covered by Workers’ Compensation.

WHAT TYPES OF INJURIES ARE COVERED BY THE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ACT?

The Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act allows benefit coverage for any type of injury, illness, or condition that occurs as a result of your work activities.  Workers’ Compensation also applies to aggravation or re-injury of a pre-existing injury or condition and conditions or injuries that develop gradually, such as low back conditions, repetitive motion injuries, or carpal tunnel syndrome.  Workers’ Compensation may also cover illnesses contracted in the workplace, or conditions that develop as a result of exposure to chemicals or toxins.

WHAT IS A QRC?

A qualified rehabilitation consultant (QRC) provides professional rehabilitation services if needed to assist in returning to work following a work-related injury.  An injured employee has the right to choose his/her own QRC.  The attorneys at McCarten Law Firm provide clients a list of QRCs from which to choose.

There are specific time limits that an injured employee must follow in order to request a particular QRC.  It is important to follow the time restrictions in order to preserve the right to choose a QRC, rather than having one assigned by your employer.

HOW SOON WILL I RECEIVE BENEFITS AFTER MY INJURY?

In general, the Workers’ Compensation insurer must pay out benefits within 14 days of receiving notice of time lost due to a work injury.  If you are receiving temporary partial disability benefits, the insurer has 10 days from the day you send in your check stubs to make payment.  If the insurer has been ordered to make payments by a judge, Court of Appeals, or Workers’ Compensation division, payment must be made within 14 days.

MY DOCTOR GAVE ME LIGHT DUTY RESTRICTIONS.  MY EMPLOYER DOESN’T HAVE ANY WORK FOR ME WITHIN MY RESTRICTIONS.  DO I HAVE TO LOOK FOR A NEW JOB?

Generally you need to look for work within your restrictions. However, if your restrictions are permanent and your employer is unable to accommodate your restrictions, you will have to begin looking for a new job. To review your options, contact a workers’ compensation lawyer at McCarten Law Firm.

If your employer cannot accommodate your restrictions, you may be entitled to wage loss benefits and/or the assistance of a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC). It is important to know that if your employer tells you that you’ve been laid off due to economic reasons or if you were fired for reasons other than your work injury, you may still be entitled to wage loss benefits, so long as you have physical restrictions that limit your ability to secure employment at an earning level comparable to the amount you were earning at the time of your injury.

I FOUND A NEW JOB THAT PAYS ME LESS THAN I EARNED BEFORE MY INJURY.  AM I ENTITLED TO THE DIFFERENCE IN WAGE?

If you return to work with restrictions, you may be entitled to Temporary Partial Disability benefits, or two-thirds of the difference between what you were making at the time of your injury, and what you are earning now.

THE INSURANCE COMPANY WON’T APPROVE OR PAY FOR MY MEDICAL TREATMENT.  WHAT CAN I DO?

Insurance companies frequently deny payment for chiropractic treatment or physical therapy, or refuse to authorize MRIs, CT-scans, or a consultation with a specialist. If the insurance company is denying payment for treatment related to your injury, or refuses to authorize the treatment you need, contact our workers compensation attorneys for assistance. You will not have to pay attorney’s fees for help in getting your medical bills paid.

CAN I BE FIRED FROM MY JOB FOR FILING A WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIM?

No. Minnesota law prohibits an employer from firing an employee in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

I WAS INJURED AT WORK AND MISSED TIME FROM WORK.  DOES MY EMPLOYER HAVE TO TAKE ME BACK?

No however, if your employer refuses to take you back after you’ve been released to work for light duty, or if your employer cannot accommodate your restrictions, you may be entitled to wage loss benefits and the assistance of a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC).

I HAVE A PRE-EXISTIG CONDITION THAT WAS AGGRAVATED BY MY JOB.  CAN I RECEIVE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS?

Employers and workers’ compensation insurers frequently try to deny claims if an injured worker has prior injuries or pre-existing conditions. If your work-injury is a “substantial contributing factor” and has aggravated your current condition, it is covered under work comp.

WHAT IS RETRAINING?  HOW DO I GET?

If you cannot return to your former job due to your work injury or a similar job at a comparable wage, you may be eligible for retraining benefits. Retraining is a formal course of study or schooling designed to help you return to pre-injury wage. Employers and workers’ compensation insurers are required to give equal consideration to both rehabilitation benefits and retraining benefits. The reality is, however, that the insurance company will rarely voluntarily pay for retraining

HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO REPORT MY WORK-RELATED INJURY?

As a general rule, you should report your injury to your employer within 30 days, but you may have up to 180 days to report the injury in some circumstances. However, there are exceptions to this rule. Even if you did not report your injury within these time frames, there is still a possibility that we can make a claim on your behalf.

HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO MAKE A CLAIM FOR WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS?

Generally, you must make an initial claim for benefits within three years of your injury if a first report of injury is filed. If no first report of injury is filed, you have 6 years from the date of the injury. However, there are many exceptions to this general rule. Even if your injury happened 5, 10, 15, or 20 years ago, you may be entitled to benefits. If the employer or insurer has paid any workers compensation benefits, including a medical bill or wage loss benefit, there is no time limit to file a claim.

I HAVE A WORK-RELATED CONDITION.  MY EMPLOYER DOESN’T BELIEVE MY CONDITION IS WORK-RELATED.  WHAT CAN I DO?

There are many types of conditions that people don’t instantly associate with workers’ compensation. Some injuries, like degenerative back conditions, arthritis of the joints, ligament tears, repetitive motion injuries, carpal tunnel syndrome, take months or years to develop. These types of injuries may be compensable under the workers’ compensation system. Other conditions, such as heart attacks, chronic regional pain syndrome (CRPS)/reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), respiratory conditions from exposure to toxins, hepatitis, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and depression may also be compensable under the workers’ compensation system.

If your employer or the workers’ compensation insurance company says that your condition is not work related, but you believe that it may be, call us today for a free consultation.

I WAS INJURED AT WORK.  MY EMPLOYER DOESN’T CARRY WORKERS’ COMPENSATION INSURANCE.  WHAT CAN I DO?

In Minnesota, employers are required to carry workers’ comp insurance, but unfortunately, some don’t. If your employer did not have insurance, you are still covered for workers’ compensation benefits through the Special Compensation Fund.

ARE INDEPENDENT CONRACTORS ENTITLED TO WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS?

It depends. This situation arises quite frequently in the IT field and in the construction industry.

Even if your employer says you’re an “independent contractor,” it does not mean that you are one under Minnesota Workers’ Compensation law. In order to be considered an “independent contractor,” rather than an employee, several specific criteria must be met. Generally, to determine whether you’re an independent contractor or not, a judge would consider the following factors: 1) the right to control the means and manner of performance; 2) the mode of payment; 3) the furnishing of tools and materials; 4) control over the premises where the work was done; 5) the right of discharge; and 6) the degree of control one party has the right to exert over another. Many people who work in the construction field are hired as “independent contractors,” however; frequently these individuals are actually employees despite what they are labeled as by their employer.

If you are hurt on the job and are not sure whether you’re an independent contractor or an employee, call us today for a free consultation.