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.
- 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