Baltimore Workers’ Compensation
Work Related Injuries
Having worked as an attorney for an insurance company, I am keenly aware of the tricks played on unsuspecting injured workers in order to deny or reduce an insurance company’s obligation. Workers’ Compensation laws are very complicated. The insurance adjusters and their attorneys know and use these laws to their benefit, not yours.
Consulting a lawyer for a work injury is free, and it is your right as an injured worker. The law prevents workers’ compensation lawyers from charging you a fee, unless and until you actually receive benefits. The sooner you get legal advice, the better the attorney is able to help you.
What should I do when I am injured on the job? Am I covered by workers’ compensation?
There are two situations in Maryland that will permit you receive workers’ compensation benefits. The first occurs when you are injured in an accident on the job. The law has recently changed and now Maryland, like most other states, will cover injuries even if they occur in the normal course of your duties.
The second situation that will permit you to receive benefits is in the case of an “occupational disease.” An occupational disease occurs over a period time, and is a result of conditions inherent in the job itself.
What should I do to make sure I receive any and all benefits I am entitled to?
The first thing you must do if you think you have an injury is to promptly report it to your employer. Make sure you write down when you reported your injury and who you reported it to. Your workers’ compensation benefits may be denied if you neglect this step.
When you are injured on the job, you are not automatically assured of receiving workers’ compensation benefits. You are required to show proof of the accidental injury, medical documentation, and have given prompt notice before you can receive benefits.
In addition, tape-recorded or written statements may be very harmful and keep you from getting any benefits. Be very careful about what you say concerning your injury. These are areas where a lawyer will help to protect your right to benefits.
You have a limit of two years (the Statute of Limitations) to file most claims. This time begins to run the day you are injured. If you wait too long, it is much harder, and may even be impossible to receive any benefits. Once your claim is filed, it is up to the employer and their insurer to either pay your benefits or contest your claim.
See a doctor and get treatment for your injury, as soon as possible after the incident. You may see any doctor you like. The choice is yours, not your employer’s. Your doctor will prescribe a treatment plan to get you better. Make sure you follow all of your doctor’s instructions carefully. Failure to do so can result in the insurance company terminating all of your benefits.
Be careful. Insurance companies have doctors who they call “independent.” Many of these physicians make hundreds of thousands of dollars per year from referrals from the insurance companies because they tell the insurance companies what they want to hear: that you are either not hurt at all, not hurt as much as your own physicians believe, do not need medical treatment, and so forth.
What kinds of workers’ compensation benefits are there?
There are four common types of workers’ compensation benefits:
- Temporary Disability Benefits- You should be eligible for these benefits during the time you are injured and unable to work, while you are healing, and until you are well enough to return to work. These benefits may be total or partial. If you are totally disabled for this time, the amount of your benefit is two-thirds of your average weekly wages. If you are partially disabled during this time, the amount of your benefit is equal to half the difference between your average weekly wage before and after the injury. Both of these benefits have a maximum amount allowed by law.
- Permanent Disability Benefits- If your injury causes some sort of permanent impairment, you are entitled to compensation for it. This may be a partial or a total impairment. If you are totally impaired as a result of your injury, you are paid two-thirds of your average weekly wage. This amount may be increased by a cost of living adjustment, is available indefinitely, and also has a maximum amount allowed by law. The amount you may receive for a permanent partial disability will depend on several factors. Your permanent partial disability benefit is based on a percentage of disability assigned to the part(s) of your body affected. These benefits are paid weekly at a rate established by law.
- Medical Treatment Expenses- Your employer and their insurer are responsible for paying any and all of your expenses incurred in treating your work injury. This includes any prescription medication, travel and parking expenses, mileage, and any medical equipment required. Make sure you get and save all of these receipts. You will not be reimbursed if you do not have a receipt.
- Vocational Rehabilitation - This is a service that your employer and their insurer must provide if you are injured to the point that you cannot return to your former employment. You will be assigned a vocational counselor, who will look at your age, education, work experience, and your injury and limitations, and will work with you to assist in returning to the workforce. The counselor and their services should be designed to make sure that will earn the best possible salary in your new profession.
What about long-term benefits, or if my injury gets worse later?
If your injury gets worse later, you may be entitled to have your case re-opened for additional lost wages or an additional disability award. Two things must be true for this to happen. First, your condition must have deteriorated since the last time you received benefits. Second, and most importantly, you must file a request with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. This must be done within five years of the last payment of compensation (not medical care) and must be accompanied by medical documentation of the worsening of your condition. Even if your condition does not get worse, you are entitled to receive the necessary care you need to treat the original injury, for the rest of your life.