Why You Need a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation attorneys have specialized knowledge gained from years of experience handling claims. In New Jersey and Pennsylvania specifically, a workers’ compensation attorney has experience and stays current with changes in state law, administrative rules and regulations, and relevant court decisions.
Claimants aren’t required to have legal representation, but an experienced workers’ compensation attorney may substantially increase your chances of success and may also increase the amount of your recovery. At Ritacco Disability Law, your attorney is only paid if you recover, so she has every incentive to maximize your recovery and fight for your best results.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance paid for by employers on behalf of their employees. In case a workplace accident or injury happens, the coverage is supposed to help the injured worker pay for medical care and lost income while protecting the employer from litigation.
While the system is designed to help workers, in many cases workers find themselves denied rightful benefits or find their claims delayed. In some cases, an employer illegally fails to pay for coverage, while in other cases, workers are misclassified as ineligible. Sometimes, an insurance provider alleges more medical evidence of an injury is provided, and sometimes there are allegations that an injury is not covered because it is not a workplace injury. Even filling out the forms can be confusing.
A PA workers’ compensation attorney can help you with all the steps in the claims process, protecting your right to workers’ compensation after an on-the-job injury. The law office of Lisa M. Ritacco has been helping clients gain benefits after serious injuries for years, with a large part of our practice focusing on workers’ compensation, SSI and SSDI claims.
Workers’ Compensation Eligibility Requirements in PA, NJ, Delaware & Beyond
Whether you live in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey or another state, your rights to workers’ compensation are similar. You may be eligible if you were injured while working or became ill because of your job and your job is in one of the eligible categories. This means your job is:
- part-time or full-time — and you are not a contractor, longshoreman, federal civilian employee, railroad worker or worker in a shipyard or harbor
- at an organization with at least one employee
- protected by workers’ compensation coverage paid for by your employer
On the surface, these rules seem simple, but complications can arise. For example, if your employer should have paid for insurance for you but did not, you may not be covered. In Pennsylvania, you may qualify for benefits through the Uninsured Employer Guaranty Fund. Also, in Delaware and in other states, some farm workers are not covered by workers’ compensation benefits, but employers may choose to pay coverage for these workers.
In New Jersey, eligibility requirements can be even more complex. New Jersey defines an employee as anyone whose work is controlled and supervised by an employer and who relies on a job for income while his or her work is a key part of the business. If an individual meets this criteria, they are an employee and must be covered by workers’ compensation insurance. This is the case even if the two individuals have an agreement stating the employee is an independent contractor.
Working with a workers’ compensation claims lawyer can help you determine whether you’re eligible for benefits and can ensure you apply in a timely way. The law office of Lisa M. Ritacco has already helped many injured workers secure their rightful benefits. We understand how confusing the process can be and we do everything we can to make the benefits process simpler for you and your family.
Submitting a Claim
A workers’ compensation attorney can:
- Help you fill out the claim forms
- Make sure all your conditions and treatment are properly documented
- Help you obtain medical records and other supporting documentation
- Appeal any adverse decisions
A Workers’ comp attorney may also obtain written opinions from your treatment providers, which can be crucial to proving your claim. At Ritacco Disability Law, our attorneys know what questions to ask the doctor and what information should be included in these type of letters.
If the agency has an independent doctor examine you, an attorney may also be able to help you prepare for the examination and explain available alternatives, such as being examined by your own doctor.
Unless the claim is settled, it will be decided by an administrative judge after a formal administrative hearing. Claimants who are represented by attorneys are often more likely to prevail at these hearings than people who represent themselves.
Ritacco Disability Law is familiar with the various rules and regulations that govern administrative hearings, the burden of proof, and what kind of evidence is needed to meet that burden. We know which arguments work and which don’t. Our attorney may help gather evidence to support your claim and give a well-organized presentation of your case to the judge. An attorney can be critical when it comes to questioning and cross-examining medical experts and other witnesses during the hearing.
An experienced workers’ compensation attorney is also likely to be familiar with the judge assigned to your case, meaning she will know which types of evidence or documentation the judge looks for with respect to your particular medical condition. Your attorney can then tailor her presentation accordingly.
Though it might seem like a simple process to file a claim, it is often long, complicated, stressful, and frustrating. A workers’ compensation attorney can help you throughout the process and may be able to maximize your benefits.
If you live or work in Pennsylvania or New Jersey— and believe you qualify for workers’ compensation benefits — contact Lisa M. Ritacco today to schedule a free consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
What You Need to Know Before you File: Common Workers’ Comp Injuries
Before you file any workers’ compensation claim, you must have sustained an injury as part of your work duties or while on the job. The injury you suffered may depend on the type of employment you have, but some of the most common workers compensation injuries include:
- Injuries caused by strain and overexertion. Any job that requires you to throw, carry, pull, push, hold, or lift objects can lead to this injury, which is considered the most common injury across workplaces.
- Slip and fall and trip and fall injuries can be caused by debris or wet surfaces. In addition, falls from heights are common in construction and other industries where workers may be working on stairs, roofs, or ladders.
- Object falls. When objects fall from a height or are dropped by someone else, they can fall on workers and cause brain trauma or other serious injuries.
- Vehicle accidents. Injuries caused by forklifts, company cars, and trucks are common in the workplace.
- Compression and crushing. Employees who work near heavy machinery can become caught in machines or crushed by them during workplace accidents.
- Heat-related injuries. Burns and chemical burns are a common injury, especially in restaurant-related and manufacturing fields.
- Repetitive strain injuries. Working in an office, library or a similar environment can mean spending hours typing or in front of a computer. The most common workplace injury in these types of environments can be repetitive strain injury, which can include carpal tunnel syndrome, tendon strain, muscle strain or eye strain.
- Injuries caused by workplace violence. All workplaces can be the site of violence and assault. Violence can be perpetrated by fellow workers, clients, customers or even workplace visitors.
The reality is that injuries in the workplace can occur in any employment environment and unfortunately each year many Americans are seriously injured or even killed while on the job. In fact, 4,405 workers were involved in fatal accidents in the workplace in 2013 and 3.3 million people suffered a potentially permanent injury. Many more suffered on-the-job injuries from which they were expected to recover.
Of course, some workplaces have a higher risk of injury and serious injury than others. In 2014, six occupations had especially high instances of workplace injury:
- Police and sheriff’s patrol officers
- Jailers and correctional officers
- Nursing assistants
- Construction workers
- Truck drivers (of tractor-trailer and heavy trucks)
For all of these positions, the incidence rate of injury was higher than 300 per 10,000 full-time workers−compared with 107.1 per 10,000 workers across all industries for the general worker population. Of these, truck drivers had the highest instances of work injuries, with 55,710 cases of injuries and illnesses requiring time off work.
If you have been injured at your place of employment, you will likely be eligible for workers’ compensation and you may qualify for other benefits if your injury is permanent. If your injury prevents you from working or if your injury requires medical treatment, you may be able to file a workers’ compensation claim to get medical benefits, wage benefits and potentially other support.
To navigate the benefits options available to you in an efficient way, you may want legal support. A qualified workers’ compensation lawyer in PA or your area can help you improve your chances of a successful claim and can support you if you initial claim is denied.
If you’d like to speak to a workers’ compensation attorney in PA, MD, DE, or NJ, contact the law office of Lisa M. Ritacco. Lisa M. Ritacco focuses exclusively on workers’ compensation, Social Security and benefits for disabled individuals. She has worked with injured workers in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland and Delaware for more than ten years. Feel free to contact her office now for a confidential consultation to examine what steps you can take in your claim.
Reducing Claims: Creating a Safe Work Environment
While many work-related injuries are covered by workers’ compensation coverage, the main priority of both employers and employees should be on preventing workplace injuries. Workers’ compensation is designed to assist employees who have been injured, but these benefits will not address all the pain and suffering a serious injury can cause. There are many ways employees and employers can help prevent injuries in any workplace:
1) Offer good employee training. Safety training can help employees identify and deal with common workplace injuries. For example, office workers can take training to learn how to avoid repetitive strain injuries by taking frequent breaks. In jobs involving heavy machinery, workers can learn how to safely work near the machines without getting entangled in them.
2) Have written workplace safety guidelines. Employers can and should have written policies and best practices to ensure safety in the workplace. Written guidelines should be given to each employee. It can also be beneficial to have written rules posted near hazardous areas. For example, beside heavy machinery in a manufacturing facility, signs can indicate that workers need to wear safety glasses or need to switch off the machine before cleaning. These reminders can help keep rules in the minds of employees so accidents are less likely.
3) Enforce proper screens, checks and security. The risk of workplace violence can be minimized with proper security. This can include running background checks when needed, hiring security personnel and upgrading security systems in the workplace. In addition, if workers show animosity or antisocial behaviors these can be addressed with mediation before the situation escalates.
4) Encourage the use of appropriate safety equipment. Gloves, safety glasses, hard hats, safety shoes, ear plugs and other personal safety equipment can help keep employees safe, especially in more hazardous conditions. Employers may need to provide or mandate the use of safety equipment. They can also enforce proper use of personal protective equipment and offer employees training in the correct use of these life-saving technologies.
5) Keep machines and vehicles in good repair. Vehicles and heavy machinery may malfunction if not correctly maintained. There should be regular inspections of all vehicles and machinery by trained professionals and a formal maintenance schedule should be used to keep every machine and car or truck in good shape. Any issues or malfunctions should be reported and addressed immediately.
6) Encourage a clean workplace. An untidy work area can be a danger. Debris or spills on the floor, for example, can easily lead to falls. Cleaning up any spilled items or liquids quickly and taking out waste can help prevent some injuries. In addition, maintaining good order and housekeeping lets workers focus on the job without getting distracted by various scattered items.
7) Regularly check for hazards and address them. Safety audits or inspections can help identify any potential dangers before they cause an injury. Employers can schedule regular checks and can also solicit feedback from employees to help identify unsafe areas. Once identified, these issues should be promptly resolved. For example, if a worker reports a broken stair railing or if a routine walk-through inspection reveals a water leak, it is important to fix these problems. If they cannot be fixed at once, warning signs or tape should be placed around the affected area to prevent injuries until maintenance can be addressed.
8) Reduce rush. Cutting corners and rushing can mean safety falls by the wayside, especially in jobs where workers are driving or are operating heavy machinery or heavy objects. In construction, manufacturing, industry, and driving-related fields, it is important to stress safety first and to offer reasonable deadlines so employees can work in a timely fashion without rushing dangerously.
9) Address weather issues. For construction workers and other employees working outside or in different weather conditions, the environment can be a factor. Even office employees can suffer weather-related illness if a building is not properly comfortable.
During hot weather, encourage employees to dress appropriately for the heat and encourage them to drink water. Ensure there is proper ventilation or even fans to prevent heat exhaustion. Provide frequent breaks.
In cold weather, provide space heaters if temperatures in a work area drop too low. Ensure workers are properly dressed with layers and adequate protection for ears, faces, and fingers. Provide changes of uniform, if the workplace provides worker uniforms, in case workers’ clothes get wet.
Even the most diligent employees and employers cannot prevent all injuries and accidents, but some preventative measures can drastically reduce hazards in the workplace. If you are an employee and have been injured in the workplace despite your best efforts, you may qualify for workers’ compensation and possibly other benefits. To get support in applying for benefits or to get assistance as you appeal a workers’ compensation decision, contact the law office of Lisa M. Ritacco. Lisa M. Ritacco focuses exclusively on SSI, SSD, and workers’ compensation cases and has been representing injured workers for more than ten years. Contact her office today to arrange your consultation.
Workers’ Compensation and Human Resources: First Steps after an Injury
Everyone has a role to play in preventing on-the-job injuries and everyone benefits from a safer environment. However, if despite your best efforts you are injured, there are several steps you will want to take:
1) Report the injury to human resources or your supervisor. You must report your injury within a certain time frame or you will lose the ability to file a claim at all. In Pennsylvania, you must report your injury to your employer within 120 days. In New Jersey, you have two years to report the injury to your employer.
While this may seem like a lot of time, it is still important to report the injury right away. The sooner you report the injury, the more quickly you may be able to start getting needed benefits. In addition, delaying reporting your injury may be used against you. Filing quickly can show you have been seriously injured and have reported the issue promptly.
2) Get medical attention. If you have hit your head or have suffered a potentially serious injury, contact emergency services. Even if your injury may not be life-threatening, get medical attention at once. Doing so can establish the injury was caused by a workplace accident. In fact, when you go to the emergency room or to a doctors’ office, you will want to establish that the injury was caused by work.
Getting medical attention promptly can also mean you start getting treatment quickly, which can improve your chances of a better medical outcome. Delaying diagnosis and treatment with some conditions can be dangerous and can lead to complications.
When seeking emergency treatment, you or a co-worker need to contact 911. If your injury is not urgent, you may be required to seek an insurer-approved or employer-approved doctor. After you have visited an emergency room, you may need to visit a medical professional on the approved list. If you do not, your medical treatment may not be covered.
If you disagree with the medical assessment of an approved doctor or if you encounter difficulty getting reasonable medical costs covered, you will want to contact a workers’ compensation attorney in MD or your state immediately. An attorney can ensure you are getting the right treatment and your rights are protected.
3) Start documenting your injury. Workers’ compensation claims rely heavily on evidence, and you will want to get as much evidence as possible in your case. Get the contact information of any witnesses to your injury and get copies of any police or medical records you can. At home, take photos of all your injuries and keep a journal of your injuries, missed time at work, bills, and medical appointments and treatments. This information can be useful later if you need to prove your injuries.
4) Get targeted legal advice. Even if you have a legitimate claim, there is no guarantee your workers’ compensation claim will be accepted. An insurer-approved doctor may misdiagnose you, an employer may allege you do not qualify for benefits or your application may be denied for other reasons. If your claim has been denied or if you have any concerns, contact a workers’ compensation attorney in your state for assistance.
Even if you have not encountered a problem but would like help applying for benefits, contact a workers’ compensation attorney with experience in SSI and SSD cases. A workers’ compensation lawyer in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, or your state can help you understand the claims process and what you can do to build a strong case.
5) Apply for workers’ compensation benefits. Your employer will generally apply for benefits with their insurer after you report your injury. You will want to ensure this paperwork is filed promptly. You may be asked to submit claim forms and a release allowing your state agency to look at medical records. You may also need to provide additional information.
If you encounter any challenges when trying to get workers’ compensation for a workplace injury, contact the law office of Lisa M. Ritacco for a consultation. Your first consultation is free and allows you to ask questions about the claims process. Lisa M. Ritacco has been helping injured workers in PA, MD, DE and NJ for more than ten years and focuses exclusively on workers’ compensation, SSI and SSD claims. If you are searching for a caring attorney with a thorough knowledge of this legal area, contact Lisa M. Ritacco for your free consultation.