It’s Time to Get a Workers’ Comp Lawyer
If you’ve been hurt at work in Texas, you might be entitled to benefits under the state’s Workers’ Compensation Act. This allows you to file a claim with your employer’s insurance company and receive benefits for medical expenses and lost income.
However, these claims can become challenging. Many workers don’t know when to try to handle a claim on their own vs. when to hire a workers’ comp lawyer. Depending on the severity of your injuries, the complexity of your case, and the actions of your employer or their insurance company, you may need to speak to a workers’ compensation lawyer.
At Ketterman Rowland & Westlund, our attorneys are available to provide a free consultation on your work-related injury and discuss all your legal options. Contact us today for help with your claim.
What Does a Workers’ Comp Attorney Do?
Many injured workers think it’s relatively easy to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. After all, that’s why the employer has insurance. People don’t realize, though, that insurance companies often don’t want to pay out on claims, particularly on those that involve serious and debilitating injuries. Your employer also may not want to file a claim out of fear their insurance rates will increase.
Workers’ compensation attorneys know this, and there are a number of ways they can help with your claim. A knowledgeable attorney will:
- Contact medical providers and complete paperwork pertaining to the claim
- Communicate with your employer on your medical status
- Gather medical records to prove the extent of your injury
- Depose you, physicians, medical experts, and other relevant parties
- Manage all the legal paperwork related to your claim for benefits
- Answer all your questions and guide you through the process
- Represent your interests during all stages of the claim
- Negotiate for full and fair settlements with the insurance company on your behalf
These are just a few of the ways a workers’ compensation attorney can help with your claim. An attorney will take over every aspect of your case, while advising you of its status, so you can focus on recovering from your injuries.
I Got Hurt at Work. What Should I Do?
Filing a workers’ compensation claim in Texas is sometimes a long and involved process. It’s for this reason that it’s so important all workers in Texas know the steps to take to file a claim.
- The first step is to determine if your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance. Unlike most states, Texas does not require employers in the private sector to carry this insurance. If you work for the government or as a public servant, your employer likely carries workers’ compensation. All other employees must ask their employer if they have coverage. Employers are legally required to provide this information to injured workers.
- If your employer tells you they do carry proper insurance, you can then report your injury to them. You must do this within 30 days of the accident that caused the injury. However, it’s recommended that you tell your employer much sooner. If you wait more than a few days, the insurance company may wonder why you didn’t report your injury sooner. If you’re trying to collect insurance benefits for an injury or illness that developed over time, such as carpal tunnel syndrome, you must report it within 30 days of discovering the injury or condition is work-related.
- After reporting your injury, ask your employer where you can receive medical care. If they have a contract with a workers’ compensation health care network, you will likely need to see a doctor within that network. If the doctor does not have this type of contract, you can choose any doctor approved by the Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC). No matter which doctor you choose, make sure you tell them during your first visit that you were injured at work.
- Your claim officially begins when you file an Employee’s Claim for Compensation for a Work-Related Injury or Occupational Disease with the DWC. This is also known as DWC Form-041. This form will ask questions about you, your injury, your employment status, and your employer. You must fill out this form within one year after your accident. The only exception to this is if your injury or illness did not present symptoms right away. In these cases, you must file this form within one year of discovering your injury or illness. If you miss this deadline, you could lose your right to benefits.
- Once you’ve filled in the form, you can send it to the DWC by mail, in person, or online. After receiving your claim, the DWC will notify the insurance company and your employer. The insurance company will then make a decision on whether to accept or deny your claim.
- Too often, an insurance company denies a claim, and injured workers give up, thinking there is no way to receive benefits. This is a mistake. You can challenge the decision of the insurance company through the DWC.
- The agency will schedule a benefit review conference. If the DWC believes you have a valid claim, it will then allow you to have a hearing in front of a workers’ compensation judge. These hearings follow extremely complex procedural rules. Your actions and testimony during the hearing will have a huge impact on your claim. For this reason, anyone who is denied by the insurance company must speak to workers’ compensation attorney. A lawyer will represent you at the hearing and give you the best chance of success with your claim.
If your employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance, you may have to pursue other options, such as filing a lawsuit against your employer. An attorney can advise on what options are available for your situation.
Tips for Protecting Your Rights After Getting Hurt at Work
When an injury sustained at work leaves you with expensive medical bills and no income, it can cripple you financially. Unfortunately, it’s something that happens to people every day when the insurance company and the DWC have denied their claim. For this reason, it’s important to take certain steps to protect your rights after you’ve been hurt at work.
- First and foremost, you must report the injury to your employer right away. Although the legal deadline is 30 days from the date of the accident, the insurance company and your employer will argue that if you were seriously injured, you would have reported the accident sooner. Inform your employer as soon as you can, inform them in writing, and make sure you include the current date, as well as the date of the injury.
- Injured employees have the right to seek medical treatment right away after an accident. Sometimes when an employee becomes hurt, their employer asks if they can continue working. In some cases, the employer may even insist the worker stays to finish their shift before seeking medical treatment. Your employer should not force you to remain at work for any duration of time. If you do stay at work, the insurance company and possibly even your employer may argue your injury is not that severe because you could still work.
- Even more importantly, it’s critical for your own health that you see a doctor right away. Trying to work with a serious injury for any period of time can make it become worse. An injury that could have been treated simply right away may require an operation if you wait too long. For this reason, you should also see a doctor even if you don’t think you were seriously injured. After examining you, a doctor can identify any injuries you may have and treat them quickly.
- While at the doctor, you must tell them how you got hurt and about any symptoms you are experiencing. State specifically when you got hurt, where it hurt, and exactly what it felt like. A doctor will write in a medical report that the injury happened at work, and the impact it is having on your life. This can provide additional information that will be used as evidence later on, if the insurance company denies your claim. Additionally, being specific about the injury will allow your doctor to treat you appropriately.
- Lastly, you must follow any treatment plans or recommendations the doctor makes. If you fail to follow professional medical advice, the insurance company or your employer will use this to hurt your claim. The insurance company will not want to help you if you do not help yourself. As such, they may deny your claim if they learn you did not follow the doctor’s advice.
Is It Worth Getting a Workers’ Comp Attorney?
Yes. If you’ve been hurt at work, it is worth scheduling a free consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney. Although you may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, this compensation may not be easy to claim on your own.
At Ketterman Rowland & Westlund, our attorneys can walk you through the complicated workers’ compensation system in Texas. We will ensure your claim is filed promptly and properly to protect your right to the benefits you need. Contact us online for your free consultation.