What is vocational rehabilitation?
Vocational rehabilitation is one of the four types of workers’ compensation benefits in Maryland (the other three being medical expenses, disability awards and death benefits). Vocational rehabilitation equips injured workers for a return to the work force when an employee is unable to return to his or her pre-injury job because of a compensable disability. If approved by the Workers’ Compensation Commission, the expenses for vocational rehabilitation are the responsibility of the insurance company. The goal of vocational rehabilitation is for an injured worker to find a job that is similar to the one previously held.
What if I am at fault for my injuries?
As long as your injury arises out of and in the course of employment, the general rule is that you may receive workers’ compensation regardless of fault. This is because Maryland’s Worker’s Compensation system is the product of compromise—employers are required to pay workers’ compensation regardless of fault in exchange for the protection from lawsuits filed by their employees. Thus, workers’ comp is the exclusive remedy for most employment-related disabilities.
That said, there a few limited exceptions where an employee’s conduct may prevent an award of compensation. For example, extreme horseplay in the workplace (as opposed to minor pranks) or willful misconduct (as opposed to inattention or negligent conduct) may render an employee’s injury non-compensable. Also, in cases of intentionally self-inflicted injury, or where the sole cause of injury is due to intoxication from alcohol or drugs, a claim for workers’ comp will be barred.
Can I choose my own doctor?
Yes, in Maryland you can choose your own doctor for workers’ compensation matters (assuming the doc accepts workers’ comp). Some insurance adjusters either think the opposite or posture the opposite, but don’t let them fool you. That said, it is important to note that you may also be required to submit to an examination by a doctor selected by the insurance company. Lastly, if you do elect to go to a doctor of your own choosing, your application for benefits to the Workers’ Compensation Commission must be accompanied by a report from your physician.
Is my employer entitled to see my medical records?
The employer does not have access to your medical records directly, but the insurer will have access to your medical records that are relevant to your case. Contact an attorney for more information on this sensitive subject.
What if the insurance company denies my claim?
Talk to a lawyer immediately about filing a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Just because the insurance company denied the claim does not mean that you won’t collect workers’ comp after a hearing before the Commission.
How do I know if a claim has been filed?
Just because a claim has been filed with the insurance company and you are given a claim number does not mean that a claim has been filed with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. It is important to get a claim filed with the Commission in case the insurer denies payment or treatment. There are also important timing requirements that must be met in order for a comp claim to proceed before the Commission.
Do I need a doctor’s note for the insurer to pay temporary total disability?
Yes. Without a doctor’s note saying that you are unable to work because of your work-related injury, the insurer will not pay TTD benefits.
Am I compensated if I have to drive far for doctor’s appointments?
Yes, the insurer will compensate you for the mileage to and from the doctor. This is not automatic and the information must be properly submitted to the insurer for payment.
Can I reopen my comp case?
Injured workers are permitted to reopen their comp claims within 5 years from the date of receipt of their last compensation payment. To do so, one must file “Issues” with the Workers’ Compensation Commission alleging a “worsening of condition.” Reopening is possible for all four types of disability benefits; even if an initial claim was only for temporary disability, an injured worker may thereafter seek a permanent award upon reopening.
Can I get workers’ comp as a part-time employee?
Yes, part-time employees are eligible for workers’ compensation. Occasionally, an individual will be employed at more than one job at a time. If an injured worker sustains a compensable injury at one job that causes him/her to miss time at another job, the employee will receive workers’ comp that is based only on the average weekly wage from the job in which the injury occurred. Even if the injury occurs while a worker is employed on a part-time basis, his/her medical expenses will still be covered in full.
What if my injury was caused by a co-worker?
As long as your injury occurs in the course of employment, you may receive workers’ compensation even if the injury was caused by a co-worker. In addition to filing for workers’ comp, you may even be able to sue your co-worker for damages in a court of law. This is commonly referred to as a third-party claim.
However, it is important to note that a third-party claim is not permissible if the injury was caused by a supervisory co-worker. Also, any recovery from a third-party tortfeasor would be subject to your employer’s right to subrogation; i.e. your employer would be entitled to reimbursement for any workers’ compensation paid or awarded as of the date of the tort judgment.
Will my preexisting injury impact my comp benefits?
Not necessarily. The Subsequent Injury Fund (“SIF” or “the Fund”) was created by the Maryland legislature so employers would be less hesitant to hire employees with preexisting injuries/disabilities. The SIF is a state agency with standing to interplead into comp cases and defend its interests as would any other party to the litigation. Without the Fund, employers would run the risk of being found liable for the entire amount of an employee’s workers’ comp benefits, regardless of whether the disability was causally related to a prior injury.
Subsequent injury law operates by apportioning liability between the Fund and an injured worker’s current employer. The employer is liable for only the subsequent injury, with the Fund being liable for the remainder of the award or however much is attributable to the preexisting condition.
What if my employer does not have Workers Compensation insurance?
In Maryland, employers are required by law to obtain workers’ compensation insurance for its employees. However, even if an employer violates the law by failing to obtain insurance, an injured worker is not without recourse. Simply put, if your employer is uninsured, it should be your employer’s problem, not yours.
The Uninsured Employers’ Fund (“UEF”) pays workers’ compensation benefits when an uninsured employer refuses to pay. The UEF is a state agency with standing to interplead into comp cases and defend its interests as would any other party to the litigation. The UEF may contest a comp claim and raise any defenses that could have been raised by the employer/insurer. If the UEF is ordered to pay comp benefits, the UEF can thereafter seek reimbursement from the uninsured employer.
Can I settle my comp case?
Yes, you may enter into a settlement agreement with your employer, your employer’s insurer, the Subsequent Injury Fund and/or the Uninsured Employers’ Fund. However, settlements do not take effect until they are approved by the Workers’ Compensation Commission (“WCC”). In fact, only the WCC is authorized to approve a settlement; thus if your comp claim is on appeal to the circuit court, the case would necessarily need to be sent back down to the WCC.
Unless the WCC orders otherwise, a final compromise and settlement agreement precludes the right of the covered employee or the dependents of the covered employee to proceed against the Subsequent Injury Fund on the claim. Therefore, the parties’ written agreement must expressly reserve the right to proceed against the Subsequent Injury Fund after settlement with the employer/insurer, if desirable to do so.
Once a settlement agreement is signed by the parties and filed with the WCC it cannot be unilaterally withdrawn. Moreover, a full and final settlement that is approved by the WCC may foreclose the right of an injured worker to seek a reopening for a worsening of condition, further medical treatment, vocational rehabilitation, etc. For that reason, it is recommended that injured workers consult an attorney prior to agreeing to settle their comp case.
I am already your client, but what can I do to help?
Do not give information to anyone outside of Warnken, LLC. Now that we are your attorneys of record, you can refer all inquiries about your case to us. Employers/Insurers have been known to take advantage of unrepresented Claimants. Luckily for you, you no longer have to deal with them directly.
Keep good records! Keep a complete record of days missed from work. Hang on to your paystubs so you can prove your wages. Get disability notes from your doctor as quickly as possible. Send all medical bills and prescription receipts to me immediately. Keep me updated after every medical appointment.
Let me know if you apply for or receive any other benefits such as Medicare, SSI, SSDI, unemployment, retirement, or any other disability benefit. Notify me if you apply for or are granted bankruptcy.
Do not post anything about your case on any social networking site or anywhere else on the internet. Be aware, depending on your circumstances, that it is possible the insurance company has hired a private investigator to follow you in real life and digitally.
Lastly, let me know if you are not happy with any aspect of my handling of your case. Similarly, if you are happy with my representation, please tell family, friends and co-workers. My goal is to serve each and every one of my clients to the best of my abilities. I am keenly aware that the most effective referral comes from the mouths of satisfied clients. In addition to workers’ comp, I handle most other types of personal injury cases, including premise liability (slip and falls) and motor torts (car accidents).