Have you been injured while working at your job? If so, you likely have the right to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, as most employers in Arkansas and Oklahoma are mandated to carry workers’ compensation insurance coverage. How does workers’ compensation work? Workers’ compensation insurance protects the employer and the employee when an injury happens at work.
While this should mean that a workers’ compensation claim should be relatively straightforward, it often is not. Instead, many employers and insurance carriers fight against workers’ compensation claims to avoid paying out on them. If your employer denies your claim, you will need to file a benefits claim. While you might be tempted to file on your own behalf (i.e., pro se), without any legal assistance, this is rarely a good idea because the claims process is often complicated. Instead, your first step should be to hire a knowledgeable, experienced attorney.
How Does Workers’ Compensation Work?
Notify Your Employer
Once you notify your employer of your injury and explain how it occurred, your employer should provide you with a form to fill out, which will ask for detailed information about your injury, including when it occurred, where it occurred, and any witnesses who saw what happened. Before submitting this form to your employer, make a copy to keep for your records. After this, your employer should create a report of your injury and send it to the insurance carrier and the state’s workers’ compensation commission.
Remember to move quickly! If you fail to file your claim fast enough, your tardiness may negatively impact your ability to collect workers’ compensation benefits. In fact, failing to notify your employer of injury quickly enough can be used as evidence against you should you go to a hearing.
Handling a Dispute
Your employer or the insurance company might ask you to undergo a medical examination by a doctor of its choosing. Make certain that you follow the doctor’s recommendations. If you disagree with the doctor’s findings, you can try to negotiate with the insurance company. You can ask for another doctor’s opinion or ask for your medical tests to be reviewed.
Filling Out the Documents
During the claims process, many different forms must be filed with your state’s workers’ compensation commission. Figuring out what forms you need and how to fill them out correctly can be overwhelming, so it’s important that you work with an attorney. An experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can help you find the correct forms, fill them out properly, and ensure that they are turned in on time so that you don’t miss any deadlines.
Filing the Documents and Serving Them
Some people make the mistake of assuming that their employer will handle everything after they file the initial form, but this assumption can be dangerous. Instead, with the assistance of your lawyer, you must file your workers’ compensation claim with the state’s workers’ compensation commission.
Attend All Hearings and Conferences
After your claim has been filed, you may be required to attend a conference before you can go to a hearing. Make certain that you attend any conference sessions that may be scheduled, as well as any settlement talks and hearings. At every meeting, discussion, or hearing, you should be honest. Do not try to exaggerate your injuries.
You may be able to settle your claim, and your lawyer can help you determine what’s in your best interest. If you can reach a settlement agreement, the agreement will need to be drafted and should contain the settlement terms. This agreement will need to be approved by the state’s workers’ compensation commission.
Appealing a Denial
If your claim is denied, you will need to go to a hearing before an administrative law judge or hearing officer, where you will have the opportunity to present evidence about your claim and your injuries.
Get Help from the Law Offices of Craig L. Cook
While you might be tempted to represent yourself pro se in a workers’ compensation case, remember that the filing process is complex. Do you know which forms to file? Do you know the deadlines for filing? Are you ready to attend mediation sessions and hearings? Don’t let the claims process overwhelm and defeat you. Instead, contact a knowledgeable lawyer with years of experience with workers’ compensation cases.