Workers’ compensation is mandatory insurance that the state of Minnesota requires most employers to have, for it insures and reimburses expenses derived from work-related injuries or illnesses. Much like mandatory automobile insurance, workers’ comp seeks to guard against the potential of an injured party being left without financial reimbursement. Yet, workers’ comp at its root is a compromise between employees and employers, for it fundamentally involves a tradeoff – employees are assured coverage for all work-related injuries (whether their own fault or not) in exchange for relinquishing the right to sue their employers for negligence involved in such injuries.
Workers’ comp only applies to work-related injuries – injuries that are caused, aggravated, or accelerated by one’s employment activities. Though some claims are very simple, straightforward, and easily proven, other cases, especially where injuries are an aggravation or acceleration of a preexisting condition, are not as simple. The key for the employee is to show that an employment activity was a substantial contributing factor in the injury. For instance, imagine someone with an old football injury – though his knee functions fine now, he still has a vulnerable area of his body that could be aggravated by the right circumstances. Yet, such an aggravation of his knee would still be covered by workers’ comp if a work-related activity was a substantial contributing factor in causing the current injury.
Once liability for an injury is proven, work comp pays for reasonable and necessary medical care in treating the injury and wage loss for the time lost from work. For instance, if a welder broke his arm, workers’ compensation would not only cover the medical expenses involved with a broken arm, but also the lost wages from not being able to weld during his recovery period. Other things that workers’ comp covers includes: benefits if the injury involves permanent damage, benefits for one’s dependents if one dies from a work-related injury, and vocational rehab if one is forced to change occupations because of a work-related injury.
When filing a workers’ comp claim, a lawyer should be retained if one’s injury is expected to last beyond a few weeks – primarily to guard against the possibility of permanent damage. If damage is permanent, and the injury keeps one from performing at the same level of work or forces one to change occupations, a worker is entitled to an award that should offset the wage loss. In complex cases, where wage loss, permanent or partial disability, and pre-existing disabilities are potential issues, a skilled lawyer is crucial in crafting a compelling claim. Having a lawyer involved in the filing phase helps avoid the potential denial of claims by the employer. And if a claim is denied, a lawyer can provide expertise in litigating the denial of the claim.
Though an outright denial is possible, it is more likely that an issue would arise over an employee’s entitlement to certain benefits such as temporary total (TTD), temporary partial (TPD) or permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits from an insufficient award by the employer. A lawyer is indispensable in helping make the tough decision whether or not one should pursue litigation over a questionable workers’ compensation award: Is litigation in your best interests? Is your claim compelling? Answering these questions are of first priority when deciding whether or not to proceed with a work comp claim and can only be answered by an attorney well versed in workers’ compensation law.
The attorneys at Meuser Law Office, P.A. focus completely on PERA, workers’ compensation and personal injury cases in Minnesota. Contact them today for a free, no-obligation consultation and claim evaluation. At Meuser Law Office, P.A. we keep our clients informed of the process as well as what to expect each step of the way.