It pays to get advice for work-related injuries from a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney
If you sustained a work-related injury in or near Sonoma County, California, you may need legal advice. Whether you have hired a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney or are thinking about interviewing a lawyer, you may need answers to these important questions.
If you only missed a few days of work and your injury has completely healed, you may not need a lawyer. Even in relatively simple cases, however, a claims administrator may deny that the injury was work-related or deny the claim for some other reason. Any time a claim is denied or the insurance company does not offer to pay medical expenses and temporary disability benefits for days of missed work, it is wise to seek advice from a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation law firm.
If your work injury caused a permanent impairment, the amount of the permanent disability benefit you should receive may be disputed. Insurance companies have an incentive to minimize the payment of those benefits. When permanent disability benefits are involved, injured employees should protect themselves by getting legal advice.
2. Does it matter that the accident was my fault?
Unless you started a fight or engaged in other extreme behavior (such as being intoxicated at work), fault is generally not an issue in workers’ compensation claims. Whether your employer, you, or someone else was negligent and caused your work injury, you are still entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
3. What benefits can I receive from workers’ compensation?
At a minimum, the workers’ compensation insurance company should pay reasonable medical bills arising out a work-related injury, although there are payment limits on certain kinds of treatment (including chiropractic care and physical therapy). If you miss more than three days of work, you are also entitled to receive temporary disability benefits to replace part of your lost income.
If your injuries are long-lasting, you may be entitled to permanent disability benefits. Some injured workers qualify for other benefits, including a retraining voucher that can be used to pay for retraining. The surviving family of a worker who died at work may receive workers’ compensation death benefits.
A Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney can advise you about available benefits after reviewing the specific facts of your case.
4. What should I say to the claims administrator?
Claims administrators handle workers’ compensation claims for the company that insures the employer. They may want to speak with the injured worker to verify details about the cause of the injury and to offer information about the availability of medical treatment.
You need to be careful that you do not say something to the claims administrator that might be misinterpreted in a way that would hurt your case. Getting legal advice before discussing your injury with the claims administrator can help you avoid problems when the time comes to settle your claim. In some cases, it may be better to let your attorney do the talking.
5. What should I tell my doctor?
You always want to tell your doctor the truth, and it is important that you not leave out important details about how the injury occurred and how it is affecting your life. Reviewing the facts thoroughly with a workers’ compensation lawyer in Santa Rosa can help you prepare for your next meeting with your treating physician.
6. Do I need to do the work my employer offered me?
If your physician allows you to work with temporary restrictions and your employer offers you work that is consistent with those restrictions, you do need to attempt to return to work. That’s true even if you were happier with the work you were doing before you were injured. If your employer is unable to accommodate the work restrictions you may be entitled to receive temporary disability benefits.
7. Will my case go to a hearing?
Early in the case, it is difficult to predict whether a claim will need to be heard by a workers’ compensation judge. After some time spent negotiating with the claims administrator, your workers’ comp lawyer will be in a better position to advise you whether or not your claim will proceed to a hearing. Most of the time, however, it is possible to work out a fair settlement that avoids the stress and expense of a contested hearing.
8. When will my claim settle?
If you have a permanent or long-term injury, you should not attempt to settle until a physician is confident that the injury has improved and become stable. Patience is important, because you do not want to settle a claim until you know all the facts that you will need to maximize your settlement. A workers’ compensation attorney in Santa Rosa can help you decide when the time is right to settle.
9. Can I bring a lawsuit?
Workers’ compensation is usually the exclusive remedy for a work injury. That means generally, you cannot sue your employer in court, even if the injury was your employer’s fault.
In some cases, however, you may be able to sue a third party in addition to pursuing a workers’ compensation claim. For instance, if you were in a traffic accident while making a delivery for your employer and the accident was the other driver’s fault, you may be entitled to sue the other driver.
Your Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney can help you decide whether you should pursue a personal injury lawsuit in addition to a workers’ compensation claim.
10. What does it cost to hire a workers’ compensation attorney?
Workers’ compensation attorneys in California are paid on a contingency fee basis. That means they don’t get paid unless they negotiate an acceptable settlement or win benefits for you at a hearing. The fee is generally 15% of the value of the settlement or benefits awarded.
Workers’ compensation law requires the fee to be reasonable, and to be approved by a judge. Your Santa Rosa workers’ compensation lawyer can explain the fee structure more fully during your first consultation.
Do you have more questions?
To obtain a free initial consultation and discuss any additional questions you have about compensation for your work injury, contact Kneisler & Schondel, Santa Rosa’s premier workers’ compensation law firm. Call us at (707) 542-5132 or ask a question using our online contact form.