What do a 19th century Prussian chancellor, matches, and Upton Sinclair’s book The Jungle all have in common? They were all instrumental in the history of workers’ compensation law. The modern American workers’ compensation system is based on one developed by Prussian chancellor Otto von Bismarck, an accident insurance for employers that also prevented them from being sued for negligence by employees. While it wasn’t perfect, it was the first time that workers were provided such protection.
There is much about the 19th century model that is unchanged. It’s a bureaucratic administrative system rather than a judicial one and workers’ compensation cases can be an uphill battle when denied. Even when granted, the lack of coverage for any damages and the requirement to work with select medical providers renders the system incomplete.
Here’s a brief guide to approaching workers’ compensation to help clients get the fair settlement they deserve.
Beyond The Office
It’s essential to know where workers’ compensation applies, and it’s not just while in the office or factory. Every claim has to have these two qualifications: the employee was doing what they were meant to and they were where they were meant to be.
A lawyer on their way to court, a plumber on a job site, or a technician on a telephone pole all qualify for workers’ compensation if they were injured on the job. Plus, the personal comfort doctrine includes things like restroom or smoke breaks too.
Understand The Gig Economy
A 2022 McKinsey survey found that a whopping 36% of employed respondents identified as independent workers. With the rise of app-reliant jobs, understanding the legal parameters for independent contractors has a big impact on workers’ compensation claims. Many platforms, such as Uber and Lyft, have developed ironclad legal protections that ensure their drivers are true independent contractors. Other businesses, however, such as e-commerce giants, may have employees working for third-party partners that have coverage. Know the business landscape and understand the options for best helping your client.
Start Off On The Right Foot
When a workers’ compensation client is retained, proactively communicating with the client is not only important for putting the client at ease, but can be essential to the case. At Morgan & Morgan, the client welcome packet includes information on what the client should (and shouldn’t) do, such as ensuring that a written report of the injury was sent to the employer via email, text, or letter.
One Amongst Many
An independent medical evaluation is almost always a requirement when a workers’ compensation claim has been disputed. With insurance-hired doctors ready to testify against your client, there will often be many doctors disputing your claim. Specializing in workers’ compensation cases specifically enables attorneys to get familiar with the local landscape of judges and doctors to best advise and support a client.
If the client was injured during the course and scope of their employment, they may have a workers’ compensation claim. But depending on how they were injured, there may be another claim present as well. Common secondary cases can include an auto accident cause if they were hurt while driving on the job, or a product liability case if the injury was caused by a faulty equipment or piece of machinery. When a client is completely unable to go back to work after the accident, filing a social security disability claim may also be necessary to provide the full compensation deserved.
As an administrative system with much bureaucratic red tape, workers’ compensation claims can be difficult to dispute and benefits can be slow to process. Knowing the ins and outs of state regulations and how these claims are handled by local judges, doctors, and insurance companies is essential to helping clients get the compensation they deserve while they recover from injury. In some cases, workers’ compensation is just the beginning: any additional claims related to the accident should be filed too.
For more on how Morgan & Morgan helps clients with workers’ compensation claims, visit our practice area guide.