Life Altering Injuries, a Connecticut legal Roadmap

Greetings! Attorneys Paul Levin and Kelly Kasheta have authored a new book, now available on Amazon and shortly Kindle as well.

You may want to  read this book because you have been hurt, or a loved one has been injured or killed in an accident. You might have a life altering, catastrophic injury. You may have a Connecticut workers’ compensation claim, personal injury, or wrongful death case. Or, you may be reading this to educate and prepare yourself in the event you find yourself injured and needing guidance and assistance. More than anything, you want to heal and get back to your life. But, someone is at fault for the injuries and pain, and for your loss of life enjoyment. If you have been injured in the course of your employment, you may be wondering who is supposed to pay the bills. What if things do not get better? What will happen if I cannot return to the same kind of work? Your days were full and busy before the accident — where will you find the time it takes to deal with insurance companies? How can you get fair compensation for all you have to go through? Even more catastrophically, what if a loved one has lost their life in, or as a result of an accident. Our book provides the answers to many questions you may have to help you get started, as well as how to understand what factors impact case valuation, and questions to ask before hiring a lawyer to make sure that they do a good job for you.

To our Friends and former clients, please do not buy this book. We would like you to have it for free. Simply click the link below, fill in your email address and proceed to download a pdf version of this pocket guide for dealing with serious personal and work injuries that occur in Connecticut.

Book PDF

 

CT Board of Education and Sovereign Immunity

CT Appellate Court:

Board of Education is not entitled to Sovereign Immunity where its employees fail to comply with terms of its anti-bullying policy.

The Connecticut Appellate Court this month in Palosz v. Town of Greenwich (Appellate Court Docket No. AC 40315) affirmed a trial court ruling that a Board of Education is not entitled to sovereign immunity where it is alleged to have failed to follow its anti-bullying policy. The court held that issues with the development, implementation, submission, and assessment of the policy all fall within the realm of state action and may afford sovereign immunity, but compliance with and enforcement of the policy (including the policing of student bullying and other behavior) do not, and rather fall within the “broad mandate of control” granted to municipalities over public schools.

Background

This appeal presents the latest ruling in a case that has spanned several years in the aftermath of the tragic 2013 suicide of a Connecticut high-schooler. The student’s family alleges that school employees had been aware of the bullying for years, and yet failed to address the problem despite what appears to be a robust, district-wide anti-bullying policy.

The district’s policy requires that any school board employee who witnesses an incident of bullying file an oral report of such an incident within twenty-four hours and a written report within forty-eight hours. It further requires an investigation of any reported bullying incident and, if the incident is verified, development of a student safety plan to prevent additional bullying. The child’s parents are to be notified within forty-eight hours of the report and are invited to discuss with school administrators the measures being taken to intervene and prevent further bullying. Repeated incidents of bullying necessitate development of a specific, written intervention plan.

Despite the implementation of what appears to be an extensive plan to combat bullying, and despite the fact that several school employees were “long aware” of the problem, the family states that none of the above measures were taken to prevent the “severe and continual verbal and physical bullying by [the student’s] fellow classmates.” The bullying was specifically described in a document prepared by the student’s former middle school to assist with transition to high school. Although the family alleges that at least two middle school assistant principals, his high school counselor, teachers, and other staff were aware of the bullying, apparently none of those school officials initiated the process of creating a student safety plan pursuant to the district’s overall anti-bullying plan.

Issue on Appeal

The legal issue in this appeal centered on whether the Defendant Board of Education was acting as an agent of the State of Connecticut when its employees failed to properly execute its anti-bullying plan. If so, then sovereign immunity applies, and a Claims Commissioner would be required to approve the claim before the family would be allowed to sue. The Appellate Court in this case held that the Board of Education was acting as an agent of the Town of Greenwich, not the State of Connecticut, and therefore sovereign immunity did not apply.

The school board argued that it was entitled to sovereign immunity in part because the statute requiring development of local anti-bullying plans (Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-222d) subjects school boards to “ongoing state oversight and control”. The statute in question details reporting requirements for a district’s anti-bullying plan and states that school boards must require public schools to submit an assessment of their plan to the State’s Department of Education. The court disagreed with the school board, holding that the failure to properly execute the plan did not “control or interfere with the activities of the state.” The court explained that the school board acts as an agent of the state (and therefore receives sovereign immunity) where it works to develop and implement its anti-bullying plan, but acts as an agent of its municipality in properly enforcing the plan by policing student behavior pursuant to the “broad mandate of control” provided by Conn. Gen. Stat. § 10-240.

The court also denied sovereign immunity under the reasoning that the qualified immunity provided by § 10-222l would be superfluous if school boards were already protected for the same actions by sovereign immunity. Qualified immunity is granted pursuant to § 10-222l where school boards act in good faith to report, investigate, and respond to bullying under their anti-bullying plans, but immunity is specifically withheld in instances where a school board has acted with “gross, reckless, wilful or wanton misconduct.” Noting that the purpose of sovereign immunity is not only to protect the state from damages, but also to prevent the state from having to litigate whether it is ultimately liable, the court stated that the legislature could not have intended to grant sovereign immunity from all such claims where § 10-222l specifically permits liability in some circumstances. “Had the legislature agreed . . . that sovereign immunity barred claims like the one presented in this case, § 10-222l would have been unnecessary. It makes more sense that the legislature concluded instead that § 10-222l was necessary because local boards of education are not protected by sovereign immunity when their employees fail to comply with an anti-bullying policy.”

Conclusion

This case comes after a long list of cases decided by the Connecticut Superior Court, about half of which have held that local boards of education are not entitled to sovereign immunity in such cases and about half of which have held otherwise (see the Appellate Court’s opinion, footnote 10). The Defendant Town of Greenwich Board of Education may appeal this decision to the Connecticut Supreme Court. If they fail to do so, or if the Connecticut Supreme Court declines to hear the appeal, the family may continue suit at the trial court level.

Appellate Court Upholds Eighty-Year Precedent: Workers’ Comp. Available for On-the-Job Complications of Pre-Existing Conditions

Can an employee recover from workers’ compensation when an on-the-job injury is the result of a pre-existing condition? In Connecticut, the answer is still yes.

BACKGROUND

Sharon Clements was working as a mess hall attendant at the Coast Guard Academy in New London when she passed out without warning, falling backwards and hitting her head on the asphalt. She sustained serious injuries as a result, but was initially denied workers’ compensation for these injuries because she passed out as the result of a known heart condition (a “cardiogenic syncope”). Had the injury to her head been the result of a slip-and-fall, there would have been no question that she would have received compensation. But the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Commission determined that workers’ compensation would not cover Ms. Clements’ injury when it decided that a head injury caused by a syncopal episode did not “arise out of” her employment.

“ARISING OUT OF” EMPLOYMENT

For an injury to be compensable by workers’ compensation, it must “arise out of” one’s employment. In other words, the injury must have occurred under the time, place, and circumstances of one’s job. The Workers’ Compensation Commission stated that Ms. Clements was ineligible for benefits because she failed to prove that her injuries “arose out of” her employment; they said that, unless she could prove that the injury would not have happened if she were somewhere else, Ms. Clements would not be able to recover.

The Connecticut Appellate Court disagreed, citing a case from 1937 (Savage v. St. Aeden’s Church) that displayed strikingly similar facts: a church employee with a pre-existing heart condition was found on the ground with a head injury after falling backward onto a concrete floor. The Connecticut Supreme Court said in that case that, regardless of a pre-existing condition, an injury “arises out of” employment if it develops within it. This is because workers’ compensation is not designed to punish an employer for dangerous working conditions; its purpose is “to compensate employees for injuries without fault by imposing a form of strict liability on employers.”

PRESENCE OF A “HAZARD”

The Defendant employer in this case attempted to argue that it did not have to pay benefits because the injury was not linked to the presence of a hazard on the employer’s premises. However, the Appellate Court stated that a “hazard” was not limited to a dangerous condition on the premises; “the accident, itself, is the hazard.” In other words, the fact that an injury occurred means there was a hazard.

In a recent case (Blakeslee v. Platt Bros.), the Connecticut Supreme Court held that an injury may arise out of employment even though the employment posed no particular risk of that injury. In other words, you might be just as likely to fall and break a bone at home as you are at work, but that does not mean that you should be denied workers’ compensation if it happens at work- an employer accepts the risk that an employee will fall and break a bone when the employee is hired; the risk “exists as one of the conditions of employment.”

OUTLOOK

The outcome of this case is that Ms. Clements will not be denied workers’ compensation simply because she had a condition that predisposed her to falling. Though the employer is not liable for the pre-existing condition that caused Ms. Clements to become lightheaded and faint, it still must pay benefits for the injury resulting from Ms. Clements striking her head on the ground. An employer accepts the risk that injuries may occur as a result of pre-existing conditions, and the mere fact that a similar injury couldhave occurred elsewhere does not bar the employee from receiving workers’ compensation benefits.

Are you looking to learn more about workers’ compensation cases in Connecticut? Follow this link to download a FREE PDF of our new book!

Whose Money is it?

CT Supreme Court Says Injured Employees May Keep 1/3 of Workers’ Compensation Proceeds from Lawsuits Against Third Parties

In a recent opinion, Callaghan v. Car Parts Int’l, the Connecticut Supreme Court held that employees who are injured on the job by third parties (people unrelated to the employer- think customers, vendors, passers-by, etc.) may keep a portion of any money won in a lawsuit by the employee against that third party. This is a great win for employees in the state of Connecticut, as this money would have previously been paid to the employer as reimbursement for workers’ compensation benefits.

BACKGROUND

“Allowing employees to keep at least one third of [these winnings] creates a win-win situation, where employers receive a partial reimbursement of money they paid through no fault of their own, and employees get to keep a share of the money they deserve.”

Patrick Callaghan was on the job when he was involved in a motor vehicle accident. As a result, his employer was required to pay him workers’ compensation benefits in the amount of $75,000. Mr. Callaghan was able to receive a settlement from the other driver in the accident in the amount of $66,000. Older Connecticut law would have required Mr. Callaghan to reimburse his employer up to the full amount of workers’ compensation benefits he received (meaning Mr. Callaghan would not have kept any money from the lawsuit unless he won more than his $75,000 in workers’ compensation benefits; in this case, he would have kept nothing).

The Connecticut legislature changed the law in 2011 to allow employees to keep at least one third of these proceeds from lawsuits against third parties, regardless of how much the employer has paid out in workers’ compensation benefits, so long as the employee is the one who started the lawsuit. Several members of the legislature noted that employees otherwise had no reason to go after third parties for compensation, because any money they won would be repaid directly to their employer- why go through the trouble of suing someone if your employer gets to keep the money? Allowing employees to keep at least one third of these proceeds creates a win-win situation, where employers receive a partial reimbursement of money they paid through no fault of their own, and employees get to keep a share of the money they deserve.

DOUBLE PAYMENT?

According to the new law, Mr. Callaghan was allowed to keep one third of his winnings against the third party responsible for his injury, or an amount of $22,000. The problem came as Mr. Callaghan realized that the workers’ compensation benefits he was paid so far would not completely cover his medical bills. Would he be allowed to keep the $22,000 he won, or would he have to put that money towards his medical bills before his employer would be required to cover further costs? The Connecticut Supreme Court says Mr. Callaghan gets to keep his money.

The controversy comes from the idea that an employee should not be compensated twice for the same injury. If the employee is compensated once by their employer through workers’ compensation benefits, should they later be allowed to also sue the third party that caused the injury? And should the employee keep that money, or should that money go to repaying the employer, who had no fault in the accident but still paid for their employee’s injuries?

Older law said the money would go to the employer, because it is unfair for the employee to be paid twice while the employer has to pay for an injury they didn’t cause. The problem is that employers often do not consider it financially worthwhile to go after the party that actually caused the injury, while employees do not see the point of going through a lawsuit that will only benefit their employer. This meant that the employer would often simply take the loss, and the party that caused the injury would get off without paying.

This new change in the law creates an incentive for both employers and employees to sue the party that really caused the injury; employees will now keep one third of any proceeds they win in such a lawsuit (so long as they initiate the suit), and employers may avoid this one-third reduction of their reimbursement by exercising their right to sue the third party first.

 

What to do after a Catastrophic Event and Hiring a Lawyer

STEPS TO TAKE AFTER A CATASTROPHIC EVENT AND HIRING A LAWYER

When you or a loved one is involved in a catastrophic accident, the first step is to make sure the proper authorities are notified, seek medical treatment, and contact police immediately if that is necessary. Secondly, notify your employer if an accident happens while you are working. Additionally, recording everything that transpires can aid towards your benefit and accumulating any tangible or concrete evidence in your possession. If applicable, secure anything you have on your telephone, such as telephone messages and retain all of your correspondence in one place, such as a diary or a log.

Furthermore, maintain any witness names and contact information. Among your initial first steps are to contact a lawyer for guidance to assist you through the process. This includes matters related to preserving your rights, determining deadlines, identifying issues, and deploy necessary investigation efforts.

How Critical is the Collection of Evidence as an Initial Step?

Among the initial measures that need to be taken with these claims is the collection of evidence. Evidence and witnesses are critical; we are not there at the scene of a catastrophic event, so we rely heavily on the individual or their family members, when possible, to obtain whatever they can. Employing capable and skilled private investigators who will collect evidence and information after the event or an accident occurs is crucial in documenting your case. If the injured party or a family member can take photographs of a defective piece of equipment or a damaged vehicle and any debris at the scene, it would be very helpful.  A lawyer is necessary to be retained who has access to the required resources to secure evidence and properly investigate an accident.

Research Before you Hire a Lawyer to Handle your Claim

When seeking legal guidance and an attorney, it is very important to consider what questions you will need to ask in regard to the specialization of the case, the lawyer’s experience, and the accountability of the lawyer. An injured party needs to take great care when researching law firms. In navigating through the many attorneys available, the injured party should spend time interviewing the prospective attorney to make sure they feel comfortable working with them. You can familiarize yourself with the law firm or attorney in advance by checking websites and paying careful attention to testimonials if they are available.

There are many well-respected and long-lived attorneys or law firms that advertise decently, but there are other attorneys that are not quite as proficient. There are boutique law firms that are skilled and specialized, but there are also high-volume firms that can fall short of the mark when it comes to serious legal representation. There are distinctions between the ways in which law firms operate and conduct business, and there are differences in terms of how effectively a law firm can pick up a case and bring it to a meaningful conclusion through proper litigation.

Law firms advertise in different ways, such as placing ads on billboards and buses, while others do so by sponsoring sports teams or weather reports. Thorough and accurate research is a crucial starting point in building and pursuing your case. Your legal and financial outcome depends greatly on this decision.

Asking the Right Questions

The injured party wants to make sure that they ask the right questions about experience, results, availability and access to essential resources, as well as about the attorney’s capacity to handle the sophisticated nature and the individual elements of their claim. An attorney’s answers to the following key questions should be strongly considered:

  • Have you handled many cases like mine?
  • What resources do you have available?
  • How will I communicate with you throughout the process?
  • What are your attorney fees and costs, and how are they billed?

Setting Expectations

You will want to meet with the attorney in person, making sure that you see eye-to-eye on how you will proceed. Occasionally, there is a philosophical difference between a client and a lawyer that becomes apparent later on in the process. It is better to understand that you can get along and that you have the same perspective about what you are trying to accomplish at an early juncture. It can be complicated to switch lawyers later in the case, so it is better to get the decision right in the beginning. This takes some talking and reflecting, and while it’s not necessary, it is ideal for it to be done in person.

To learn more about the crucial steps to follow on making an injury claim and other beneficial information related to personal injury cases in Connecticut, I encourage you to download our pocket guide for free via this link: Book Download

 

Statute of Limitations on Catastrophic Injury Claims in Connecticut

In General

Providing a general answer to questions about statutes of limitations is complicated because it depends not only upon the type of case, but also on the presence of special circumstances that may affect the time period. With that said, there is generally a two-year statute of limitations for negligence cases in Connecticut. If you are dealing with a product liability case or a defective product, then the standard time period is three years. There are exceptions to the time periods that require consultation and guidance at an early juncture. For example, there might be a two-year statute of limitations for a medical negligence case in Connecticut, but if it involves a physician who is employed by the state or a medical facility owned and operated by the state, then there is a period of one year within which you must file certain notifications and the law suit.

Similarly, you may have two years to bring a case in court, but there are often earlier written notification requirements that apply. A typical example would be a claim involving a defective highway or street owned and maintained by a government entity, the state, or a municipality. There are also some exceptions involving the service of alcohol by a liquor establishment or restaurant.

One of the guiding recommendations pertinent to the statute of limitations is not waiting long after your accident before engaging legal counsel. There needs to be an immediate assessment of the parties to be notified and a close tracking of the statute of limitations and relevant notice deadlines.

In certain instances, you may not be able to bring a case, even if you are injured and have the assistance of an attorney. Careful consideration and a degree of due diligence is required in evaluating the merits of a case. This includes gathering evidence, interviewing people, and oftentimes getting the opinion of an expert before one has a good faith basis to proceed with a case. Even if you have recognized a statute of limitations that is expiring, if you do not have a good faith basis or believe that you can prove your case, it may not be prudent or ethical to proceed.

If you want to bring a claim against a healthcare facility or physician in Connecticut, you must first have an opinion by a similarly situated health care provider stating that medical negligence likely occurred. If you do not have this independent medical opinion when you file the case, then your case can be dismissed.

If you come to a lawyer too late in the process and they do not have the opportunity to complete their investigation to undertake due diligence, then they may not be able to file the case for you. Deadlines may have passed, evidence may have been lost or disappeared, or witnesses may have forgotten the events. There are many reasons to quickly obtain a competent lawyer and ensure that your rights are protected.

In Summary

As discussed, the statute of limitations for catastrophic life altering injuries is going to be based on the particular circumstances of a case and then determined by statute. There is a statue in Connecticut that applies to medical negligence cases and gives a party the right to an extra 90 days if the two-year statute of limitations is about to run out. The extension has to be filed in court before the two years expires. Clearly, when you have someone who is incompetent, incapable, or deceased and cannot assert their own rights, a legal relative or responsible party should contact an attorney.

The lawyer will evaluate and advise on the statute of limitations, and get the required notices filed. A responsible representative needs to be thinking about helping the family or the individual locate and obtain proper representation at the earliest possible moment.

To learn more about statute of limitations on catastrophic injury claims in Connecticut and other beneficial information related to personal injury cases in Connecticut, I encourage you to download our pocket guide for free via this link: Book PDF Download

Factors that can Lead a Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Case to Litigation

Reasons for Litigation

For a variety of reasons, it is a common outcome for personal injury and wrongful death cases to end up in litigation. Often, this is to learn more about what happened and to secure evidence that the lawyer or client does not have in their possession. It can sometimes take instituting a lawsuit for such evidence to arise. In the absence of subpoena powers and the ability to conduct depositions and discovery, you often will not have a full picture of what happened. Not having all of the evidence bears tremendously on liability issues in the absence of the litigation process, which can be unpleasant and lengthy.

Without this process, it’s just too easy for an insurance company or the person in the position of decision-making authority to say “No, we don’t think we are at fault,” or “We are not going to pay that much.” You can only attempt to discuss what would be a just resolution for your case and what would be an appropriate valuation of the case outside of the court process. It is easy for a business decision maker (oftentimes an insurance adjuster) to try to save money for their client. If the insurance company is going to offer anything, it is ultimately left to the injured party to value the case.

Roles of Insurance Companies

Insurance companies typically have a value called an insurance reserve, which holds for both life altering injuries and death cases. They will put a value on a case that they do not share with you or your lawyer. They assess a case, and then modify the assessment until a case is settled. One of the goals of the litigation process is to have them increase the assessment in the reserve. That initial figure – whether you negotiate, attend a pretrial settlement conference or attend mediation later on – will be at the forefront of the authority that the insurance company’s lawyer is going to have.

Why Qualified Representation is Important

If a lawyer underworked a case by failing to employ the right resources, collect certain evidence, or take certain depositions, then they have failed to take the necessary steps to properly work the case. A failure to take those steps could have a strong impact on the offer they receive in a case. When underprepared, attorneys could be “playing against the reserve.” The defense decision-makers are going to try to save the insurance company money – this is a reality of the system. If you are pro se (self-represented), or if you have an under-skilled or inexperienced lawyer, you can lose money on the case. It is about properly identifying issues and mapping out a course, both of which should begin at the intake interview. Even though it might result in a lawsuit being filed down the road, the process is and should be started very early.

 

To learn more about navigating the factors that can lead to litigation in a personal injury or wrongful death case, as well as other beneficial information related to personal injury cases in Connecticut, I encourage you to download our pocket guide for free via this link: Book PDF

Injury and Wrongful Death Case Valuation in CT

HOW IS A CATASTROPHIC INJURY OR WRONGFUL DEATH CASE VALUED IN CONNECTICUT?

When dealing with a life altering case, valuing all compensable damages is a traditional starting point. Compensable damages generally include:

  • Medical bills
  • Lost wages
  • Permanent disability
  • Pain and suffering
  • Future medical expenses
  • Future impact to an individual’s earning capacity

Navigating injured parties through the process is a vital responsibility of the attorney. As a result of this involvement, attorneys develop the issues of compensable damages, with the end result being to properly and sufficiently monetize the case for the catastrophically injured individual.

How Long Does a Life Altering Injury Claim Take to Settle?

There are many variables to consider when determining how long it will take for a life altering injury claim to settle. The length of time is often dictated by the time it takes for the injured party to complete medical treatment. If the individual is deceased, then it will depend on the length of time necessary to collect, evaluate, and properly address all the issues to formulate the damages profile.

The length of a claim can also depend on the docket or the court. The courts dictate how long these things take when a case is in suit. Most cases will settle or go to trial no earlier than 18 months and could take many years. Though the range is wide, one and a half to three years is the general timeframe for most cases.

Possible Outcomes for Life Altering Injury Cases

The American Bar Association and their subcommittees have conducted studies on life altering injury cases, and there are various trial lawyers associations that track injury cases (some of which go to trial, and some of which end up settling). For over a decade, there has been a seeming trend away from trials. This is happening for a variety of reasons. Cases are diverted to settlement measures – such as arbitration or mediation – to bring about a resolution of the case. The cases that go to trial are the ones that cannot be resolved, despite all early discussions and court intervention. These are cases where the parties’ positions are just too far apart, and it is the only way to resolve the dispute.  There are many instances in highly disputed cases where the advocates on each side of the controversy will see the case quite differently. As the case litigation proceeds and as the issues become clearer, there is usually an opportunity to explore an agreement. The fact is that most people would rather make their own decisions about settlement than have a judge or jury do it for them.

The uncertainty of what a judge or a jury may do with a dispute also supports the general inclination of most individuals and companies to sort out their own business relations, where they can achieve what they believe to be a reasonable result. These factors working together often determine the probability of going to trial.

It is estimated that less than 10 percent of cases go to trial. However, if you do not prepare a case – whether straightforward or complex – with sufficient care and energy, and if the attorney that you retain does not convey the complete intent to go trial on your behalf, then the odds of going to trial increase. The parties must prepare for the worst and hope for the best. By preparing to go to trial, you are reducing the chances that you will have to.

Please follow the link for access to a free pdf download of our full book to learn more about:

  • How do I know when it is the right time to settle?
  • How do I know if an injury claim offer from an insurance company is fair?
  • What happens if a catastrophic injury victim dies after filing a personal injury lawsuit?

Life Altering Personal Injury Cases in Connecticut: Free PDF

What Happens If You’re Unable to Work after an Injury?

The Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act & Expert Help

The reality of dealing with a serious injury can have emotional, physical, and financial repercussions. If you are unable to work after an injury, there may be a variety of job-retraining and career-counseling programs available. Under the Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act, there is job retraining that remains accessible to the injured worker for their entire lifetime, regardless of whether or not they resolve their case. You also can seek guidance by working with vocational and job training experts who can make suggestions about certain positions for which you may be suitable. Vocational experts help assess the resulting needs of the injured party. Economic experts calculate the vocational expertise and make projections regarding what a person will be capable of doing. Financial experts can help forecast what someone’s financial future looks like, and what their needs are going to be. Economic and noneconomic evaluations are essential to include in a case analysis and validation.

In addition to vocational and economic experts, working with a network of life planners and nurse case managers to help analyze medical records and doctor’s instructions can be essential. Working closely with life care planners, nurse case managers, vocational experts, and financial experts is fundamental to properly developing the case. These steps are necessary to calculate lost earning capacity and to help guide and advise an injured party who is unable to work.

Government Assistance

When a person has been injured, the whole family structure must be taken into consideration. If the injured party is the sole provider for a family, then sources of income sufficient for a continuance of financial support will need to be identified.  The problems differ in terms of magnitude and the immediacy of the need. The availability of family resources should also be considered. There are governmental programs that may come into play, such as social security disability, Medicare and Medicaid.

Medicaid is a federally-subsidized state program that provides welfare benefits, food stamps, and medical care in instances where a family or person does not qualify for social security disability or Medicare. Unfortunately, there are instances where none of those programs are going to be immediately available or adequate.

It should also be noted that arrangements can be made to assist with transportation while property damage claims or auto accident claims are dealt with. For example, services such as Meals on Wheels and various social services programs may be available for a person in need.

To learn more about available resources if you are unable to work after an injury and other beneficial information related to personal injury cases in Connecticut, I encourage you to download our free pocket guide!

Personal Injury Case vs. Workers’ Compensation Case

PERSONAL INJURY CASE VS. WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CASE

It is important to understand the fundamental basis for personal injury claims and workers’ compensation claims in order to distinguish between the two. The most important difference is that a personal injury claim is based on the fault of one party, whereas a workers’ compensation case does not require a finding of fault. In order to recover damages against someone in a personal injury case such as a car accident, a slip and fall, a medical mistake, or any type of negligence action, a party must be at fault. For workers’ compensation, the claim exists regardless of wrongdoing or fault. For example, if someone stumbles in the hallway at work and breaks their leg, no one is at fault for the fall. However, since it occurred in the course of that person’s employment, it will be covered as a workers’ compensation claim.

Personal Injury Claims

A personal injury claim is the result of someone’s negligent act, and these claims are governed by the principles of tort law. A standard of care is necessary for almost every instance. Once the established standard of care has been breached and harm results, a personal injury claim may arise. Connecticut’s Workers’ Compensation Act states that the employer remains responsible for any injury or harms that occur in the course of someone’s employment, regardless of fault.

A personal injury claim is governed in large part by what we refer to as common law. Typically, common law is a duty that society, through the process of life experience and courts entertaining different kinds of controversies over the years, establishes what is considered reasonable conduct. Most unreasonable or negligent conduct can give rise to a breach of a duty of care that a court will acknowledge, recognize, and enforce. This is true whether someone is driving inappropriately, failing to maintain their property, engaging in certain types of conduct, or failing to engage in conduct that is appropriate under the circumstances.

A personal injury case is a claim for monetary damages and is prompted by a breach of a duty of care that was owed to the injured party. It is different from a workers’ compensation claim in the sense that a workers’ compensation claim is regulated by statute, and there does not need to be a violation of a duty of care or negligence.

Workers’ Compensation Claims

Workers’ compensation benefits are intended to accomplish several things. A workers’ compensation claim is intended to provide immediate support, medical, and wage indemnity for an injured worker. A personal injury claim generally usually involves getting the compensation at the end of the process, whether it is one or several years later. The injured party is not going to have any immediate financial compensation, where a workers’ compensation claim can provide this in the meantime.

How Is My Claim Handled if I Sustain an Injury at Work and I also have a Claim for Negligence?

It is often the case that individuals who have been hurt at work also have a separate personal injury claim arising from the same accident. This is known as a third-party claim, because an additional party is legally responsible for the injured worker’s accident. The workers’ compensation claim is obvious, but being aware of a third-party claim may not be so obvious to the injured worker. They may have been injured in a motor vehicle accident while working, or perhaps they fell in someone’s broken stairwell while making a work-related delivery. A workers’ compensation claim may be very valuable in its own right, but there may be good reason to pursue a separate personal injury claim.

There are damages that can be compensated in a third-party personal injury case that are otherwise not compensable in a workers’ compensation claim. Having both claims pursued together will provide you with the proper level of protection. For instance, if you have a partial loss of earning capacity, then you are going to be limited in your workers’ compensation claim to getting a completely full recompense for that loss. However, you may be able to obtain the necessary compensation through a third-party personal injury claim.

There are restrictions on the amount of partial loss earning capacity that you will be paid for under the workers’ compensation rules. Certain damages, such as pain and suffering (or in some cases, scarring) can be compensated in a third-party case but not in a workers’ compensation claim.

It is often necessary that an injured worker retain a law firm that can handle both the workers’ compensation case and the companion third-party personal injury case, should there be one. In this way, they will have a concerted effort working to coordinate the best possible outcome in each potential claim.

In Summary:

  • Personal Injury Claim
    • Based on the fault of one party
    • Result of someone’s negligent act
  • Workers’ Compensation Case
    • Does not require a finding of fault
    • The claim exists regardless of wrongdoing or fault
  • Third-Party Claim
    • Additional party is legally responsible for the injured worker’s accident
    • Workers’ compensation and also another separate claim personal injury claim arising from the same accident.

To learn more about workers’ compensation cases and other beneficial information related to personal injury cases in Connecticut, I encourage you to download our pocket guide for free via this link: Book Download

Workers’ Compensation Cases in CT

Worker’s Compensation Cases

Working men and women are the backbone of Connecticut’s economy. Connecticut boasts a diverse workforce that makes it the place we love to call home. Our State cannot survive without its hardworking citizens; the law recognizes this.  When a worker is hurt on the job; paying compensation for medical bills, lost wages, and permanent disability are the responsibility of the employer, as stipulated by Connecticut law. You do not have to “sue” your employer. Injured workers are entitled to be on equal footing with their employer’s workers’ compensation insurance company.  You are entitled to be represented by your own attorney, who will work hard to make sure that your benefits are paid properly and timely, and that pitfalls are avoided.

 What Is “Workers’ Compensation”?

Connecticut’s Workers’ Compensation Act has been the law for almost a century.  It recognizes your value to the state economy, your town, and your family. The law protects all people who have been hurt while working, either from a sudden event, an injury that comes from repetitive actions, or an illness caused by the work you do.

Your employer must;

  • cover all related medical costs.
  • Pay a good portion of your lost wages (using the statutory formula).
  • Make an additional payment if you suffer a permanent disability.

Unless you hurt the same part of your body again in a new accident, this protection by your employer (through their insurance company) lasts your whole life.  If an injury takes a workers’ life, the law requires that a surviving spouse and/or dependent children receive the workers’ benefits.

Understanding CT’s Workers’ Compensation Laws

Connecticut’s workers’ compensation laws can be complicated.  These laws continue to change.  Rules and procedures that you or your friends may remember from past compensation cases could very well have changed. If you have been hurt on the job and are filing or have already filed a workers’ compensation claim for injury or death, talk with a lawyer before trying to represent yourself.  After a work-related injury, you are left to face mounting medical bills, the prospect of a lengthy recovery, and the fear that you may never be able to return to the same type of work or earning capacity. A death at work overshadows all of these worries with enormous grief.  These are reasons why it is important to seek experienced and competent representation. In a work-related accident, compensation benefits should be available not only for your injury-related medical and surgical bills, but also for physical therapy, medical equipment, mileage to and from your treatment appointments, and any permanent disability (even if you return to work).

Do I Need A Lawyer For My Workers’ Compensation Case?

This is a good question. You might be surprised, but our first answer is not “of course.” Many on-the-job injuries are not serious, are witnessed or reported right away, and result in quick medical care paid for by an employer (or its workers’ compensation insurance company) that acknowledges its legal responsibility without hesitation, question or complaint. While we never shy away from talking to an injured worker who has questions, it is unlikely that the involvement of an attorney would be necessary under these circumstances.

If the injury is more serious, is not witnessed or reported quickly, does not heal quickly, or if medical care is discouraged or not provided when you need it, then you need to call an attorney. You should also be prepared to call an attorney if you do not receive compensation benefits or if you receive a Form 43 denying responsibility for your injury.  An experienced attorney will help make sure you are getting the treatment you need to heal as quickly and completely as possible.  An attorney will also help you receive the compensation benefits you are entitled to under Connecticut law; and help you avoid the pitfalls that can severely limit or even end your entitlement to compensation benefits.

We think the biggest problem with workers’ compensation is that it should be straightforward and simple, but it often is not. It is important to know that the Workers’ Compensation Commission regulates attorney fees in compensation cases.  In almost all instances, the attorney fee is only 20 percent of some of the benefits you may receive. For example, when your employer is making voluntary payments of weekly benefits for temporary total or temporary partial disability, an attorney may not take a fee, no matter how many calls are made to the compensation carrier about late checks. An attorney also may not take a fee from medical benefit payments, no matter how much work is done to get you seen by a doctor or to get a medical bill paid. In fact, a common source of the attorney’s 20 percent fee is the payment made for permanent disability after you have healed.  Since healing usually takes time, the sooner an attorney is working for you, the more he or she will eventually do for the fee being earned. Finally, the commissioners are quickly available to deal with any dispute an injured worker may have with his or her attorney.

I’ve Been Hurt at Work — Now What Do I Do?

If you’ve been hurt at work, the first thing you need to do is report the injury to your supervisor. If you do not report your injury, then it is almost sure to be denied by your employer. You may know you were hurt, and if you do not let too much time go by, you may remember the date and time that you sustained the injury.  However, an employer cannot check and document an unreported injury, and the coworker who you think will back you up was probably not paying as much attention as you think.

You will also want a doctor to examine you, but if you are not on the way to the hospital to be seen in the emergency department, then you may have to start with your employer’s doctor. Many employers use “managed care” programs for workers’ compensation, which are like HMO plans specifically for workers hurt on the job.  As with many HMO plans, your employer’s workers’ compensation medical plan may require you to see a particular doctor before you can be seen by a specialist.  Although you should have a choice of treating doctors, your list of approved choices may be limited (unless you are not on the way to the hospital for an emergency). Even if your family doctor is a part of your health insurance plan, they may not be a part of your employer’s workers’ compensation plan.  By reporting your injury, you can know where to go for your first examination and not have to find out later that your bill will not be paid or that your employer will not pay attention to the opinion of the doctor you decided to see.

In sum;

  • Report the injury to your supervisor immediately.
  • Get examined by a doctor listed under your employers’ workers’ compensation plan.

To learn more about navigating worker’s compensation cases with an attorney and your employer, as well as other beneficial information related to personal injury cases in Connecticut, I encourage you to download our pocket guide for free via this link: free download