5 Advantages of Having an Attorney When Filing Your Claim
Being injured in a workplace accident can be devastating. There’s the pain of the injury. You are left unable to work and engage in your usual activities. There are medical expenses that add up quickly. And because you can’t work, you can’t earn a paycheck.
Fortunately, injured workers in Connecticut can file for workers’ compensation benefits. These benefits include payment of medical expenses and partial compensation for lost wages while they can’t work. In some cases, workers may be eligible for payments for permanent disability or job retraining expenses if they can’t return to their previous job.
You are not required to have an attorney when filing for workers’ compensation benefits. But the laws are complex and claims can become complicated. An employer has the right to dispute a claim for benefits. Here are five advantages to having an attorney on your side in a workers’ compensation claim.
- A Thorough Knowledge Of The Process
The Workers’ Compensation Act establishes a process for filing a claim in Connecticut after being injured on the job. This includes certain notice and filing requirements that must be followed in order to be eligible for benefits.
An injured worker has a lot on his or her mind—getting treated for injuries, wondering how long he or she will be out of work, and trying to support the family in the meantime. The rules and the paperwork involved with filing a claim for benefits can be confusing and intimidating. You could lose benefits if proper procedure is not followed, or if paperwork is filed past a deadline or with incorrect information. It can take time to learn exactly what needs to be done.
But an experienced attorney is already very familiar with the workers’ compensation laws in the state, including any updates made by the legislature. An attorney will make sure all required notifications are made, all necessary paperwork is filled out, all information on the paperwork is correct and all deadlines for filing are met.
- The Resources to Gather Evidence
If an employer disputes your claim, you will need to make your case that you were injured at work and deserve benefits. There are different types of evidence that be used, including:
- Medical Records—These essential pieces of evidence prove the extent of the injury and treatment required.
- Employment Records—In some cases, an employer may dispute that an injured person was an employee. For example, the employer may claim the person was working as an independent contractor. Employment records such as paystubs and offers of employment can establish an employer-employee relationship.
- Accident Reports—These can establish that there was a workplace accident in which someone got hurt, and that the employer was notified of the incident.
- Witness Statements—People who actually saw the accident can help establish that it resulted in injury.
- Expert Witnesses—Doctors, engineers, accident reconstruction specialists and other experts can help establish that a workplace accident led to injury.
All of these types of evidence can help you prove your case and successfully resolve your claim. But gathering this evidence can be difficult and time-consuming. An experienced attorney has a legal team with the skills and knowledge needed to gather supporting evidence as quickly as possible.
- The Skills to Negotiate a Settlement
In cases where an employer disputes a workers’ compensation claim, the insurance company may try to negotiate a settlement. But their lawyers will try to strike an agreement in which the insurance company pays as little as possible.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney has the negotiating skills to reach a settlement that is favorable to you. Building a strong case can convince the insurance company it is in their best interest to increase their offer.
An attorney will begin by determining what your claim is worth. This includes adding up the medical expenses for treating your injury, both now and in the future. And while negotiations are ongoing, the attorney will also continue to gather evidence and if needed, present it at hearings with the Workers’ Compensation Commission.
Once a settlement is reached that meets your needs, an attorney can finalize the details so you can begin receiving payments as soon as possible.
- Experience with Hearings and Appeals
If a settlement can’t be reached, there will be an administrative hearing to resolve the claim. There are different types of hearings in Connecticut to resolve workers’ compensation claim disputes. They include:
- Informal Hearing—The parties meet with a workers’ compensation commissioners to attempt to resolve the dispute.
- Pre-formal Hearing—This determines the timetable needed for formal hearing. The two parties may discuss the witnesses that will be called, as well as documents and other evidence that will be introduced. They may also try again to resolve the dispute.
- Formal Hearing—This hearing is similar to a trial, and will proceed with both sides submitting evidence and talking to witnesses. The commissioner will review all of the evidence and will return a decision of “Finding and Award” or “Finding and Dismissal.”
- Compensation Review Board (CRB) appeal—A board of commissioners reviews the Formal Hearing decision based on the evidence presented. A request for this appeal must be made within 20 days of the Formal Hearing decision.
- Connecticut Appeals Court and/or Supreme Court—Either party can appeal the CRB decision in the Connecticut court system.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney knows how to request a hearing or appeal, as well as the process for introducing evidence and presenting witnesses.
- Ability To Identify And Pursue Third-Party Claims
If you are injured in a workplace accident, you are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. But you are not able to sue your employer, even if your employer was negligent.
However, in some cases, the negligence of a third party led to the accident that caused the injury. For example, the third party could be a contractor or the manufacturer of a defective piece of equipment. A successful workers’ compensation claim will pay for your medical expenses and part of your lost wages. But you can seek other damages from a negligent third party.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will thoroughly review your accident to look for any negligence by a third party. This negligence is not always obvious, and you need to prove it to seek damages.
In addition to identifying third-party negligence, an attorney will determine the amount of damages you have suffered. This can include compensation for pain and suffering, disability, disfigurement and other damages.
The attorney will then file suit against the third party, build a strong case and work to resolve it through a negotiated settlement or trial award.