For a free consultation with an attorney about your work related injury, call (662) 286-3366.
Unlike personal injury cases where proof of negligence is required, if you were injured on the job there is a good chance you are entitled to Workers Compensation benefits. It is just required that you be on the job and be injured in the course of your employment and those terms are very broadly defined. Another important difference between personal injury and Workers Compensation is what you are entitled to recover. Every Mississippi employer with five or more employees must carry Workers Compensation insurance to pay ALL of your medical bills and to pay two thirds of your wages (up to a statutory maximum that changes annually) while you are off work. If the injury causes a permanent loss of the ability to earn wages or if your bodily function is impaired, you are also entitled to an additional payment depending on the particular injury and its severity.
If you have been injured on the job, or if you simply want to know your rights in the event of injury, here are answers to frequently asked questions:
- Commission, and administrative agency set up by the state? If your employer does not, you must file a claim with the Commission and you will almost certainly need an attorney to do that for you.
- CAN I LOSE MY RIGHT TO RECOVER: Yes, your claim must be filed with the Commission within two years of your injury date? If your employer pays compensation, provides medical care and then files the required documents with the Commission, the limitation period can be reduced to one year after that date.
- WHAT CAN I RECOVER FOR MY INJURIES: Your employer is required to provide complete medical care without a deductible or co-payment? While you are unable to work you are entitled to benefits equal to two thirds of your average weekly wage but limited by a maximum that is set by the state annually. For example, assume that Joe Smith has been working for Big Daddy Construction Company for well over a year and his average gross pay (without deduction of taxes or social security) has been $ 700.00 per week. Two thirds of Joe’s pay is $ 466.20. However, let’s say Joe was injured in 2011 when the state maximum is $427.20; Joe’s weekly benefit is reduced to that amount and this is known as Joe’s “compensation rate.” Once Joe’s doctor has released Joe to return to work, temporary benefits stop. Now, the question becomes whether or not Joe is entitled to more compensation. If Joe has a permanent impairment he probably is. The amount will depend on what part of the body is impaired, the extent of the impairment, and what effect the impairment is likely to have on his ability to earn wages in the future. By state law, there are maximums applicable to various parts of the body and an overall, lifetime maximum. For example, if Joe lost use of one leg, his compensation is probably a maximum of his compensation rate for a period of 175 weeks. On the other hand, an injury to his back may extend his payments out to 450 weeks. Again, remember there is a lifetime maximum (not including medical care) and, for the year 2011, that amount is $192,240.00.
- WHAT IF MY EMPLOYER ISN’T PAYING COMPENSATION OR ISN’T PAYING MY MEDICAL EXPENSES AND I CANNOT GO BACK TO WORK YET: If you genuinely cannot return to your work, but your employer isn’t paying you or the doctor, your lawyer must file a claim with the Workers Compensation Commission to get your payments started or to get your medical care covered.
- WHAT DO I NEED TO DO TO PROTECT MY RIGHTS TO COMPENSATION: There are several steps you need to take to protect your rights and maximize your recovery? Here are some essentials you need to know:
- Notify your employer or your immediate supervisor immediately after any injury. You are required by law to do so and failure may jeopardize your case. Many employers will assume you were hurt elsewhere if you do not tell them while you are still at work. Even if your injury seems minor, and you think you will probably recover without medical care, notify your employer. Then if it turns out to be more significant than you thought, you are covered. Many have assumed the pain in their back at work was just sore muscles. When they wake up the next day and cannot get out of bed, they realize their mistake.
- Many employers have apreferred doctor they send injured workers to, and that doctor’s relationship with your employer can sometimes affect the doctor’s treatment and his opinion as to whether or not you are able to return to work. If you end up selecting your employer’s doctor, your recovery may be seriously reduced. All doctors are not equal. You want good care but you also want a fair opinion. So you should exercise great care in choosing your primary doctor and also know all about any specialists you may be advised to see. Be careful about signing anything that might be selection of a doctor until you know he or she is truly “your” doctor. By going to the emergency room, you are not selecting a doctor.
- Giver your doctor (and every doctor you consult with) a full history so that they know 1) you were hurt on the job and 2) they make note of all pains, aches and problems. It is normal to only talk about what really hurts at the moment and assume that minor aches will go away. This can be a major problem for people who fall or for some other reason experience pain in multiple locations. The broken leg will probably heal in a few weeks but the small pain in your back or neck might get worse over those same weeks and may be with you for years.
- Be sure your medical records are accurate. When you go for a follow up visit with your doctor, ask for the records for your last visit. Read over them to be sure that everything you told your doctor about your problems is written down. Although it is rare to find one who will admit it, doctors make mistakes just like the rest of us. If the medical record is incorrect, point it out and request a correction. That is not only helpful for your workers compensation case but also helps you get the treatment you need.
- Attorneys handling workers compensation cases are paid a percentage of the amount recovered. This is called a “contingency fee” and is limited to 25% of the amount recovered by law. The attorney’s fees are not calculated on medical expenses and reputable attorneys do not take part of the temporary benefits you receive unless those are obtained with the attorney’s assistance.