If you are one of the many people presently out of work as a result of Covid 19 related issues, you may be wondering about benefits or assistance available to you beyond unemployment compensation. If you have ever had a workers’ compensation claim which was accepted by the work comp insurer, you may still have wage loss or vocational rehabilitation benefits available for that claim. This often comes as a (pleasant) surprise to people who assumed their work comp claims were closed forever once they returned to work.
How do I know if I have work comp benefits available to me now that I’m out of work?
Every case is different, depending upon the nature of injury, when the injury occurred, medical care and treatment for the injury, whether benefits were exhausted, etc. For this reason, there is no simple answer to that question and the best way to determine whether you have benefits available would be to consult with the work comp attorney. When I am contacted by someone in this situation, I start by asking a number of questions which will help me understand what benefits have been paid and what potential benefits may be available. Some of these questions would be:
(1) What was the date of injury? The workers’ compensation laws in effect on the date of injury generally control the nature of benefits available, so this is an important date. As the laws are revised over the years, limits and availability of various benefits have changed or been modified. There are also some wage loss benefits which are no longer available after a certain amount of time has passed since the injury. For that reason, this is an important initial question.
(2) Was your injury claim accepted by the work comp insurer? If the work comp insurer paid medical bills or paid you wage loss benefits, this means that your claim was accepted and remains open, unless you made some type of settlement.
(3) Did you receive any type of settlement from the work comp insurance company? In many work comp cases the parties reach a settlement at some point and the employee is paid a lump sum of money to resolve the claim. Some settlements leave future benefits open while other settlements close all claims without exception. Any type of settlement would have to be approved by a workers’ compensation judge and there would be a document signed by all parties which sets forth the terms of the settlement.
(4) Have you continued to receive medical treatment for the work injury? This helps establish that the work injury was serious or permanent and continues to be a problem. Alternatively, if you have not received any medical care for the work injury in a number of years, it probably makes your claim more difficult.
(5) Have you changed jobs or employers since the injury? Work comp benefits remain available even if you no longer work for the employer where you were injured, a fact which many injured workers don’t know. It is helpful to get some sense of any and all jobs you have been doing since the work injury.
(6) Have you had any new injuries or aggravations to the body part involved in your work comp claim? If your previous work injury involved in your shoulder, for example, we need to know whether you have had any more recent accidents or significant aggravations of your shoulder problems that the work comp insurer could use as a defense to a current claim. Also, if you have changed jobs and your current job has significantly aggravated your shoulder problems, you may have a new injury claim against your current employer and insurer.
These are some of the basic questions we would ask during an initial phone call or meeting. If it appears that you have valid claims available, we would then need to obtain medical records and any documents relating to your work comp claim. We can obtain these other documents from the work comp insurance company or the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry.
If you find yourself in a difficult financial situation following a layoff or loss of job, don’t forget to consider the possibility of available benefits from a prior work injury claim. Please feel free to contact us at any time for a free consultation or review of your potential claims. If you are presently visiting our blog, you will find a number of posts which should be informative if you have other questions.
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