Any injury suffered at work can be difficult to deal with. When the injury is serious or life-threatening, the employee will need to devote all of his or her resources to recuperating from the harm caused during employment. If the injury is to the brain or spinal cord, the victim may suffer memory loss, cognitive impairment, personality changes and even paralysis. The victim will want to ensure that he or she has the best doctors working to restore the body and mind to its pre-accident condition. In addition, the employee will want to hire a skilled personal injury attorney with experience dealing with work accidents that involve traumatic brain injuries and spinal cord damage. After suffering a serious work injury, an employee will have many questions regarding the future. These questions may include:
- Who will pay for my medical treatment?
- How will my family and I survive while the case is being handled by my attorney?
- What if I am permanently disabled because of the accident?
- Will I be compensated for my pain and suffering?
- What if I was responsible for causing the accident?
- Can I sue my employer in civil court for the harm caused by my injury?
- Should I deal directly with the insurance company?
- How long will the process take?
The attorneys at Brown & Gessell have the answers to these questions and have the expertise to make sure you are treated fairly after suffering a serious work injury. The attorneys have handled hundreds of accident cases many of which involved injury to the brain and spinal cord. You can be almost certain that the insurance company for your employer will have an attorney representing its interest. It is important that you have someone on your side who is looking out for you. Call us now at (209) 430-5480.
Answers to Frequently Asked Questions
Who will pay for my medical treatment?
All medical treatment for injuries that occur in the course of employment is covered by your employer’s worker’s compensation insurance. There should never be any co-pays or employee contributions to these costs. The covered treatment includes all doctor visits, hospital bills, scans (x-rays, CT scans, MRI, etc.), physical therapy, medication, chiropractic care, counseling and transportation to the appointments. The payment of medical bills for treatment of injuries related to employment continues indefinitely. There is no time limit that cuts off the treatment and no maximum dollar amount above which the insurance company will not pay.
How will my family and I survive while the case is being handled by my attorney?
Many individuals and families struggle to survive financially while a worker’s compensation case is being handled. Some of the financial challenges may include the employee’s inability to return to work, difficulty in doing work around the house and family members missing work to help the injured employee. While there are no easy solutions to these challenges, here are some possible ways to overcome this difficult time:
- Worker’s Compensation: In all employment related cases, an employee will begin to receive temporary disability payments within a couple weeks of the accident that caused the injury. In most cases, the temporary disability payments will be two-thirds of the employee’s regular pre-accident wage. The payments will be made about every two weeks until the employee reaches a state of maximum recovery called “permanent and stationary” status. At that point, a doctor will examine and evaluate the employee to determine if the employee has any permanent disability. This permanent disability will be expressed as a percentage of disability and will correspond with an additional dollar amount. This permanent disability amount will be paid out by paying the two-thirds of the employee’s pre-accident wage every two weeks until the full amount has been paid out.
- Private Disability Insurance: If the employee has disability insurance through work, a credit card plan or some other program, this will help pay the cost of items not covered by worker’s compensation insurance. Disability insurance will often pay for lost wages and other expenses while the injured person is unable to work.
- Advances: In certain cases, an employee may be able to get an advance on the anticipated recovery in the worker’s compensation case to help pay for the necessities of life. There are many funding companies that are willing to advance a portion of the expected recovery in exchange for repayment of the advance plus a sizeable fee. The size of the fee will depend on several factors such as the amount of the advance, the type of case involved and the time it takes to repay the advance. This option should be used as a last resort as the employee will often have to pay a fee of 50-100% for the advance. Thus an advance of $10,000 that is repaid in six months will likely cost the victim between $5,000 and $10,000 in addition to the principal and will be deducted from the recovery in the worker’s compensation case.
What if I am permanently disabled because of the accident?
Occasionally, the injuries that an employee suffers in a work accident are so serious and debilitating that returning to work is not an option. This scenario is very common in brain injury and spinal cord injury cases. In this situation, an employer’s insurance carrier is required to pay the wages and medical treatment of the injured person to the end of the person’s life. If the injured worker can return to some type of employment with additional training, the worker’s compensation insurance carrier may be responsible for paying the cost of this additional training.
Will I be compensated for my pain and suffering?
No. Pain and suffering are not compensable in a worker’s compensation case. The only forms of compensation available in a worker’s compensation case are lost wages, medical treatment and vocational training. While this may seem unfair, this limitation on damages represents a compromise between employer and employee in compensating the employee for work accidents. On the one hand, the employee does not have to prove fault on the part of the employer to be able to receive the benefits under this system and, on the other hand, the employer only pays for the economic damages associated with the accident.
What if I was responsible for causing the accident?
Worker’s compensation benefits are available to an injured employee without regard to who was at fault for the accident. Even if the injured employee is the cause of the accident, this will not normally affect the payment of benefits. The only exception to this principle is if the injured employee intentionally causes the accident or the harm. If the accident or the harm is intentionally caused, the employee is not entitled to any compensation.
Can I sue my employer in civil court for the harm caused by my injury?
In most cases, you cannot sue your employer in civil court for a work-related injury. An accident covered by worker’s compensation usually stays in the exclusive realm of the worker’s compensation system. There are a few exceptions to this rule involving intentional harm caused by the employer and certain types of industrial machinery but the general rule is that you cannot bring a civil action against your employer or co-workers for a work-related injury. In addition, if the employer does not have worker’s compensation insurance at the time of the accident, the employee may sue the employer in civil court. Also, even though an employee has a worker’s compensation case against his employer, this does not preclude the possibility of bringing a civil action against another party for causing the harm. Often times, the work injury is caused by defective machinery, the negligence of those not associated with the employer or a treating physician. In these situations, the employee may have a worker’s compensation case and a civil case proceeding simultaneously. The rules for suing the employer and others in civil court are complicated and require the analysis of a skilled attorney. This is one of the many reasons you should consult with the attorneys at Brown & Gessell regarding your serious work injury case.
Should I deal directly with the insurance company?
No. The insurance company has only one goal: to keep its money. It does this by limiting the amount of money it has to employees that are injured at work. The insurance company has hired professional adjusters and defense attorneys to help it accomplish this goal. You should not talk directly to the insurance company or sign anything from the insurance company until you have consulted with an attorney. To protect yourself and ensure that you are treated fairly, it is important that you have someone on your side that has experience both in the legal field and in dealing with worker’s compensation insurance companies. By hiring an attorney to assist you with your case, you can focus on getting better and leave the complexities of the worker’s compensation process to a professional.
How long will the process take?
This is a very difficult question to answer because the duration of a particular case depends on many different variables. The average serious work injury case takes between one year and three years to resolve depending on several variables. Some of the variables that may affect the length of a case are: the extent of the brain injury, how long a victim takes to recover from the injuries and which insurance company is handling the claim. In addition, before the case is resolved, both the injured employee and the worker’s compensation insurance company will want to wait until the full extent of the injury has been determined.