Ann works in a busy restaurant. One evening, while rushing to get an order to a patron, she slips in a puddle of freshly spilled soda. She bangs her head on a table on the way down, then lands hard on her back. When she tries to stand up, things just don’t feel right.
She reports the accident to her employer and files a workers’ compensation claim. She visits the recommended urgent care center and is diagnosed with a concussion and back injuries. She is excused from work for two weeks.
Her employer expects her to report back to work after that, but by the end of her two weeks off, she is still having splitting headaches, brain fog, and lingering back and neck pain. She tells her management team that she is not ready to come back, but they tell her she has used up her allotted time off. What can she do now?
Unfortunately, this is not an uncommon scenario. The Department of Labor developed the workers’ compensation system to protect employees, but too often, it feels like the system favors employers. Employers’ insurance companies retain teams of shrewd lawyers who know exactly how to minimize employees’ compensation and paid time off. This is where workers’ compensation lawyers come in.
I Thought I Waived my Right to Sue When I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim.
Generally, you are prohibited from suing your employer for an on-the-job injury. That’s the deal: your employer provides worker’s compensation insurance and, in return, you waive your right to file a lawsuit for any work injuries you sustain. Because of this setup, many employees believe they’re stuck when a workers’ compensation arrangement or settlement is unfair.
Fortunately, there may be recourse. Yes, employers may be shielded from lawsuits, but only if they’re playing by some specific rules. If they breach those rules, you shouldn’t have to suffer. You can file a lawsuit and get the benefits that you’re entitled to.
How do I Know if I Should File a Workers’ Compensation Lawsuit?
Any of the following scenarios may merit a lawsuit. If in doubt, it’s a good idea to contact a workers’ compensation lawyer. Most offer free evaluations and work on contingency fees, which means they won’t require payment unless you win the case. That means almost no upfront risk for you.
Your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance.
Different states have different rules about workers’ compensation requirements. Some states give exceptions for agricultural workers or real estate agents, and the state of Texas doesn’t require most private employers to have workers’ compensation insurance. Other states only require workers’ comp for companies that have a minimum number of employees.
However, here in the state of Nevada, all employers must be covered by workers’ compensation, even if they just have one employee. Talk to a Las Vegas workers’ compensation lawyer if your employer tells you they do not need to have workers’ compensation.
Your employer is denying your benefits.
There are several reasons you can be denied benefits. For example, if you were engaging in horseplay, committing illegal activities, or violating company policy when you were injured, your employer may have grounds for denying benefits.
We have seen many cases where employers exploit gray areas to deny you benefits. For example, in Ann’s case, they may say that they placed a cone near the spilled liquid to warn of a slippery floor, but Ann walked near the cone anyway. Ann may enlist a workers’ compensation attorney to show how the restaurant did not do enough to mitigate the spill and warn her of danger.
If your employer tells you that you are not covered under their workers’ compensation policy, you don’t have to take their word for it. Talk to a workers’ compensation lawyer to get a second opinion.
Your employer says your injuries are a result of pre-existing conditions.
This is another circumstance that employers may exploit to avoid paying out workers’ comp benefits. In our example above, let’s say that Ann was in a car accident a few years back and got whiplash. Her employer may try to pass off her neck and back injuries from her restaurant slip and fall as residual trauma from her car wreck.
Ann would benefit from working with a workers’ compensation lawyer who can skillfully build a case that decouples her past and present injuries.
Your employer is not giving you the needed time off of work.
In Ann’s case, her doctor recommended that she take a prescribed amount of time off while her injuries heal. Under Nevada workers’ compensation laws, she should be given lost wages for this time off. But what happens when the time runs out, and she still feels unfit for work?
Given her pain, Ann should return to her approved doctor, communicate her symptoms, and request an extension. If her doctor grants the extension and her employer won’t pay her for the extended time off of work, she may need to take legal action. Or, if the doctor the company contracts with won’t grant time off of work, she may also want to consider filing a claim with the help of a workers’ comp attorney.
Your employer will not cover your medical bills/future medical bills.
Your employer is responsible for covering your medical bills for workplace injuries, but some employers are unwilling to do so, especially when you have ongoing care costs.
If you were not injured on the job, you would not be dealing with these costs. A workers’ compensation attorney can ensure that these costs don’t fall unfairly to you.
Your employer is retaliating against you.
We have seen various cases where employers outwardly follow the rules of workers’ compensation while subtly retaliating against their employees. Companies may demote or even fire employees, harass them about their injury claims or their time off of work, or ignore their doctors’ recommendations for modified work.
It is illegal to retaliate against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you know exactly what your rights are and defend you against illegal tactics.
Don’t be fooled into thinking that agreeing to workers’ compensation forfeits your rights. On the contrary, your employer forfeits their right to be shielded from legal action when they violate workers’ compensation laws.
Some people put up with illegal treatment following their workplace injuries because they don’t know how to stand up for themselves. This is understandable because the workers’ compensation system can be complex and overwhelming, and employees may not have had much experience with it before. Besides that, employers and insurance companies can be intimidating, and employees may be nervous about staying in their boss’s good graces.
If you are not being treated fairly after a work injury, the easiest way to navigate these cases is with the help of a workers’ compensation attorney. They can help you file the right paperwork in a timely manner and understand exactly what rights and benefits you are legally entitled to. They will be able to see right through any underhanded tactics and communicate with your employer and their insurance company so you don’t get caught in the middle.