Workers Compensation Job Claims
What Types of Injuries Need to be Reported to My Employer
Any injury resulting in medical treatment or lost time from work should be reported to your employer. This includes cumulative trauma injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome and psychological injuries such as anxiety disorders, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder. In addition to physical injuries and stress disorders, you are entitled to compensation for occupational diseases and long-term exposure to hazardous conditions such as exposure to asbestos, loud noises causing hearing loss, and multiple chemical sensitivity disorder.
What Benefits am I Entitled To?
You are entitled to wage benefits if you are disabled from working due to the work injury. You will receive 60% of your average weekly wage. Your average weekly wage is calculated by taking an average of your earnings over the past 26 to 52 weeks prior to the injury. You will receive 60% of your average weekly wage as long as you are totally disabled from working and receive a doctor’s note verifying your disability. If you are able to return to work on a light-duty or part-time basis, and if you are earning less than what you were earning prior to your work injury, you are entitled to receive 60% of the difference between what you were earning before you were injured and what you were able to earn after you returned to work.
You are also entitled to vocational rehabilitation services if the work injury permanently disables you from returning to your prior occupation. Your vocational rehabilitation counselor will formulate a plan to return you to work. These plans (called “IWRPs”) range from sending a worker back to school for up to one year to learn a new trade through simply helping the worker prepare a sum, and find job listings in the newspaper or employment security office.
The workers’ compensation carrier or employer is also obligated to provide medical treatment for your injury.
Can I Settle My Workers’ Compensation Claim?
Yes. A lump-sum settlement can be approved by the Department of Labor. However, under New Hampshire law, you cannot lump sum settle your entitlement to medical bills. The employer or insurance carrier is responsible for medical bills related to your work injury, as long as those bills continue to be causally related to the work injury and are reasonable and necessary. Unfortunately, workers’ compensation law does not permit any recovery for pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, or scarring or disfigurement. Accordingly, the settlement an injured worker receives in a workers’ compensation case is usually much less than a person would receive with the same injuries in an automobile accident case or third-party claim. For this reason, your attorney should always explore the possibility of a third-party claim. Examples of a third-party claim in a workers’ compensation case would be a product liability claim against the manufacturer of equipment that had a defective design, or a claim against a general contractor on the worksite who is responsible to maintain a safe construction site. You cannot sue your employer unless the employer intentionally caused your injury.
Do I Have Any Job Protection?
Recent amendments to the New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation Statute provide that an employer with five or more employees must take reasonable efforts to return you to your job or an alternative work opportunity. This right of reinstatement only applies if you receive a doctor’s approval to return to your usual job within 18 months from the date of your injury. In addition, employers with five or more employees are also obligated to provide light duty to workers who are temporarily injured and unable to return to his/her usual job.
Do I Need an Attorney?
Not all worker’s compensation cases require the assistance of an attorney. However, most attorneys accept injury cases on a contingency fee basis and offer free consultations by telephone or in person.
It is always a good idea to talk to an attorney who is knowledgeable in the practice area of your particular case.