How Workplace Accident Attorneys Can Help Your Claim - Hensley Legal Group

How Workplace Accident Attorneys Can Help Your Claim

We spend an estimated 90,000 hours in the workplace over the course of our careers – nearly a third of our waking lives.  So much of what happens to us happens at work, and that includes accidents.  There were approximately 4.5 million accidental injuries in American workplaces in 2022, constituting 7.1 percent of all accidental […]

June 26, 2024

We spend an estimated 90,000 hours in the workplace over the course of our careers – nearly a third of our waking lives.  So much of what happens to us happens at work, and that includes accidents.  There were approximately 4.5 million accidental injuries in American workplaces in 2022, constituting 7.1 percent of all accidental injuries nationwide.  There could be an on-the-job accident in any field, though some employment sectors, such as construction and transportation, have notably higher rates of injury and death. 

When you have a dangerous job, it is normal to wonder, “If I get injured at work, do I get paid?”  While you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if you get hurt at work, the nature and extent of those benefits can vary from state to state, and there may be caps on how much you can receive.  And though you might be able to access additional resources if your work injury is caused by an outside party, success is never guaranteed.   

Given the inherent complexities, injured workers frequently seek out legal assistance, but what can lawyers do for a work injury case?  Let Hensley Legal Group explain how workplace accident attorneys can help your claim. 

What Is Workers’ Compensation? 

Injured employees in the United States are primarily compensated through the workers’ compensation system, which was one of the nation’s first broadly adopted “social insurance” programs. Under this system, workers who are hurt in on-the-job accidents that arise “out of or in the course of employment” are eligible for related treatment, some degree of wage replacement, and maybe other benefits, which may vary both on a case-by-case and a state-by-state basis. 

To understand workers’ compensation in practice, it is important to know something about its history.  Prior to the creation of workers’ compensation, employees who wanted to be compensated for their work injuries were forced to file negligence liability lawsuits against their employers.  To prevail, a worker and his or her lawyer had to prove that a workplace accident was caused by the employer’s negligence or failure to exercise due care.  In turn, the employer could defend itself by arguing that: 

  • The worker knew of the risks and assumed them by taking the job (the “assumption of risk” defense); 
  • A coworker caused the accident (the “fellow-servant” defense); or 
  • The worker’s own negligence caused or contributed to the accident (the “contributory negligence” defense). 

Because injured workers would have needed to establish fault on the part of their employers, many of them did not receive any compensation at all for their workplace accidents, and only about half of the families of fatal accident victims received payment for their loved ones’ deaths.  Very often, workers and their families had to rely on their savings in the event of a workplace accident, which could quickly be depleted – as they might quickly be depleted in the present day without workers’ compensation. 

In response to the shortcomings of the negligence liability system, various states began following the lead of some European countries by enacting workers’ compensation legislation around the turn of the last century, with New York passing the first such statewide law in 1898.  Over the next fifty years, the rest of the states implemented their own workers’ compensation systems, which continue to be regulated by the states themselves.  For example, Indiana workers’ compensation claims are administered by the Worker’s Compensation Board of Indiana, which facilitates “both formal adjudication and informal dispute resolution services” to “provide efficient dispute resolution for injured workers and employers.” 

As of 2024, employers in every state but Texas are legally compelled to carry workers’ compensation coverage for their employees.  Most employers purchase policies from workers’ compensation insurance companies, who are tasked with administering the benefits for valid claims, though some employers may self-insure and administer their employees’ claims on their own.   

Each state’s workers’ compensation system is unique, but they all offer considerable advantages to workers over the previous system for addressing on-the-job accidents, not least of all when it comes to liability.  In most states, workers’ compensation claimants no longer need to prove that somebody else is at fault in order to receive benefits.  As long as an employee is injured while performing the duties of his or her job within the course and scope of his or her employment, that employee should be able to file a workers’ compensation claim, even when bearing some responsibility for the accident.  As a result, workers who might have been left penniless in a different era because of a simple mistake can today get the treatment they need and enough support to tide them over until their injuries have healed. 

Workers’ compensation offers considerable advantages to employers as well.  In exchange for providing no-fault benefits to employees when they get hurt on the job, employers are largely shielded from civil liability for work accidents, with their employees barred from suing them for negligence in most states.   

By sparing employers and employees the hassles of the litigation process, workers’ compensation can be a win-win for both sides under deeply trying circumstances. 

What Workers’ Compensation Benefits Can You Receive?  

Now that you have a better sense of what workers’ compensation is, you probably want to know what benefits you could receive if you are injured on the job.  While specific workers’ compensation benefits may differ depending on the location of the accident, there are three core benefits that are found in practically every workers’ compensation system.  These benefits are as follows: 

  • Medical Benefits – Bills for reasonable medical treatment related to a claimant’s work injuries should be paid, though certain treatments and medical providers may need to be approved before they will be covered. 
  • Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Benefits – Wage replacement payments may be made to claimants whose treating doctors have either ordered them off of work completely because of their work injuries or have given them work restrictions that their employers cannot accommodate.  Typically, TTD benefits are equal to two-thirds of the claimant’s average weekly wage and cease once an employee has been cleared to return to work. 
  • Permanent Partial Disability/Impairment (PPD/PPI) Benefits – If a claimant has permanent impairment because of his or her work injuries, he or she may receive compensation for that loss, usually as a lump sum settlement, though it may sometimes be paid out in installments.  The amount of that compensation will be heavily influenced by a variety of factors, including the laws of the state, the percentage of the body that is determined to be impaired, and the claimant’s income.  It should be noted that only claimants who sustain permanent injuries will qualify for PPD/PPI benefits (or PTD benefits in the case of “permanent total disability”). 

Aside from the three core benefits, some workers’ compensation claims could merit: 

  • Vocational Benefits – When their injuries prevent claimants from returning to their former jobs, vocational rehabilitation benefits could prepare them for and aid them in finding new employment. 
  • Death Benefits – If a claimant should unfortunately die because of a work injury or illness, his or her surviving beneficiaries could receive compensation in accordance with the terms of the state’s workers’ compensation system. 

This is not meant to be an exhaustive list of workers’ compensation benefits, and injured employees are encouraged to consult a knowledgeable work injury attorney before making any decisions. 

What to Do After Your Workplace Accident 

As you can see, there are multiple benefits that you might be able to obtain if you get injured at work, though there are key steps you may have to take after your workplace accident if you wish to obtain them, such as the following: 

  • Notify your employer – You cannot have any workers’ compensation claim at all unless your employer knows that you were hurt at work, so notify your boss, foreman, or someone else acting in a supervisory capacity about your injury as soon as you can.  While a state like Indiana may permit you to report a workplace accident up to 30 days after it occurs, you should not wait that long, as doing so could cast doubt on the causal relationship between your injury and the accident, or whether there even was an accident. 
  • Get medical treatment – Because gaps in care could hinder your recovery, get treatment promptly, whether from an on-site medic, a medical provider with whom you are directed to treat by your employer, or at the closest emergency room if your employer does not direct you to treat with any providers. 
  • Write down witness statements – If any coworkers saw your accident, write down their statements, since witnesses could independently confirm what took place. 
  • Take photos and shoot videos – It may be a cliché, but a picture really can be worth a thousand words when it comes to cataloging your workplace injury, so try to take photos and shoot videos of the accident site, the machines or tools involved, and any visible damages incurred. 
  • Keep records – Detailed records could be invaluable in maximizing your benefits and securing timely approvals and reimbursements.  Hold on to the documentation from your medical appointments and receipts for all out-of-pocket expenses, and don’t forget to log the days of work missed and the mileage traveled secondary to your work injury.  And finally… 
  • Talk to workplace accident lawyers – Skilled legal practitioners will take pains to assemble a comprehensive workers’ compensation claim and investigate other potential economic opportunities. 

What Can Workplace Accident Attorneys Do for You? 

Nobody is ever truly prepared for a workplace accident, and it could be tough to know what to do or where to turn in the immediate aftermath, especially if this is the first time you have been hurt at work.  Though your state may have a no-fault workers’ compensation system, your employer and its insurance company are probably more concerned about serving their own interests than serving yours.  As such, they are unlikely to go out of their way to get you the entirety of your benefits, and they may even push back on some benefits or deny your claim outright so that they can minimize their fiscal exposure. 

This is where capable workplace accident attorneys can make a difference.  This may be your first work injury, but it won’t be the first for your workplace accident lawyers, who may have handled many claims just like yours.  They will: 

  • Educate you about your rights – If you know little about navigating the workers’ compensation system, much less your rights and responsibilities within that system after you have been injured at work, lawyers with workplace accident experience can educate you about your rights and fiercely advocate on your behalf when those rights are not honored. 
  • File a formal claim – Formally filing with the workers’ compensation agency in your state will give you a means of protecting your claim and redressing any issues that might come up.  Seasoned attorneys can make sure that your workers’ compensation claim is filed properly in keeping with all statutory requirements and deadlines. 
  • Deal with the insurance company – Veteran workplace accident lawyers are equipped to meet the insurance company on a level playing field and respond to tactics designed to diminish the value of your claim.  Let your attorneys deal with the insurance company so you can focus your efforts on restoring your health.  
  • Fight for your benefits – Your lawyers will fight to keep the insurance carrier honest, verifying that it grants you ALL of your benefits on time and taking action when it does not. 
  • Represent you at every proceeding – Your legal team will be by your side during every proceeding, representing you at depositions, arbitrations, hearings, and appeals. 
  • Put together an airtight case – Only by conveying the totality of your work-related losses can you hope to receive the maximum compensation owed to you under the law.  Your attorneys will amass the materials needed to put together an airtight case and present it as thoroughly and compellingly as possible. 
  • Procure a top settlement or award – Your lawyers will know what your claim is worth and will endeavor to equal or exceed that figure in a negotiated settlement or award. 
  • Respond to denials – A denial could stop most novice claimants cold, but it will not stop proficient attorneys, who can marshal the evidence to counter that denial, whether during negotiations or at formal proceedings. 
  • Identify other avenues of financial recovery – While there are limits to how much can be obtained from your employer through a workers’ compensation claim, other avenues of financial recovery may exist, and your lawyers will work tirelessly to identify them.   

Other Avenues of Financial Recovery for a Workplace Accident 

And what are the other avenues of financial recovery for a workplace accident?  That will chiefly depend upon the facts leading up to your workplace accident.  In most situations, your sole method of recovery will be a workers’ compensation claim, which imposes strict ceilings on how much you can recover and the sorts of losses for which you could recover.   

For instance, workers’ compensation may not cover such non-monetary damages as pain and suffering.  While these damages might be available to plaintiffs filing personal injury lawsuits, states like Indiana prohibit injured employees from suing their employers for workplace injuries.  Consequently, that sort of loss is not recoverable – unless an outside individual or entity caused that work injury, which could allow you to garner greater compensation through a personal injury or third party case. 

And indeed, there are some work injuries for which a third party case may be viable, particularly in hazardous professions like transportation and construction.  Thus, if you are driving for your job and get injured in a car accident with a driver who does not work for your employer, you could file a lawsuit against that driver and the owner of his or her vehicle (if separate from the driver), among others. 

Similarly, if you are injured while working on a construction site, you might be able to initiate litigation against the parties who may have contributed to your injuries but who do not employ you directly.  Depending on the construction accident, the list of defendants may include the property owner and/or construction developer, the general contractor overseeing construction, any contractors and subcontractors working on the project, and even the manufacturers, distributors, and retailers of defective machinery or gear. 

If the defendants have sufficient insurance coverage or assets, a third party case could permit recovery for the full spectrum of your losses, whether monetary or non-monetary, unlike a workers’ compensation claim, where attributes of your employment curb how much you can recover.  Furthermore, you may be able to pursue a third party case and a workers’ compensation claim simultaneously instead of having to choose between one or the other.   

Nonetheless, it should be pointed out that your employer’s workers’ compensation carrier may demand repayment from your third party settlement or verdict for anything it has paid out on your claim.  Moreover, you will need to demonstrate negligence on the part of the third party defendants, something you would not have to do with a workers’ compensation claim.  And if blame can be shared between you and the defendants, your verdict or settlement may be reduced by the percentage of your own culpability or your case may fail, though workers’ compensation benefits might still be on the table. 

The road ahead of you can be difficult if you suffer a serious accident at work.  However, if you retain dedicated workplace accident attorneys who can get you the workers’ compensation benefits you deserve from your employer while hunting vigilantly for other sources of remuneration, you may ultimately acquire the funds to become whole again.  

Standing Up for Hardworking Hoosiers 

You work hard for the people you love, and you would hate if that work brought you and your loved ones to the brink of ruin.  To get your life back on track after a workplace accident, get in touch with Hensley Legal Group, where we have been standing up for hardworking Hoosiers for more than 25 years. 

You can call or text us at (317) 472-3333, chat with us online, or fill out our contact form to schedule a free consultation with one of our Indiana workplace accident attorneys at your earliest convenience.