In writing this column for the past ten years, I have tried to answer questions in a way that both teach and explain the law. I have been clear that Joel and I want personal injury cases, and enjoy meeting with people and answering questions and evaluating their case. While that is true I also have been clear that what is more important to us is that people are represented by good lawyers and through this column know something about the case they have and avoid common mistakes.
There is no replacement for the education of handling hundreds and hundreds of different workers compensation cases. The perspective gained from trying cases in court and handling the appellate work is something that we are grateful to be able to share.
A gentleman spoke to me in Lowes about his on-the-job injury case. He thanked me for this column and even though he had a very good lawyer he told me that we had answered some of his questions and he felt more comfortable with his case because of us. That is success.
What people injured on the job need to know about comp law is too large a subject to cover in a column, but here is an overview.
First, all injuries must be reported promptly. If the report is ignored write a letter, copy it and hand it to a supervisor. Use the employers doctors and get approval for treatment. You have the right to ask for another doctor only once but you need a good comp lawyer to help you choose.
You should be paid 2/3 of your average week wages while you can’t work during the healing process and that 2/3 is known as temporary total disability payments (TTD).
When the doctor believes you’ve healed as much as you will, he will place you at maximum medical improvement (MMI). This immediately stops the TTD checks so be ready.
Some injuries, such as fingers, hands arms , feet and legs are paid a scheduled number of weeks, while hip, neck, back and shoulders are paid on a vocational basis that accounts for the loss of jobs you could have done and a decrease in wages if you can not return to your previous job.
A lot of the law is both complicated and unfair. For example, if a court finds a worker 99% impaired and that person never can find a job that’s a final ruling the court can’t change. But if the court rules against the employer and finds the worker 100% permanently totally disabled, the employer can reopen the case to prove that the employee could work as many times as they want with no time limit.
While the law is that 100% disabled does not mean that the injured worker can’t do some work, and the appellate courts have repeatedly upheld this principle, as a practical matter judges are reluctant to find a 100% permanent total if the worker even has a part time job. Remember that a 100% permanent total pays weekly for life.
Buckle up and drive safely.