Work-related injuries can happen anywhere, and (with a few, limited, exceptions) no industry or sector of employment is immune from accidents. Countless jobs today have workers outside the office, on equipment and horses, making deliveries, performing construction work, and otherwise exposing themselves to potential injury. Steffens Law Office has represented injured workers and employees in a host of different fields of employment and has helped them to secure adequate compensation for their injuries.
Work-related injuries don’t always happen the way we assume they must, with the great traumatic force of a roofer falling off a roof or a factory worker getting his hand caught in a machine. Sometimes, a feed lot pen rider falls off his horse or a nurse hurts her back helping a patient. Steffens Law Office has represented several of these types of injured employees. Other typical cases involve people who perform the same repetitive motion daily, such as typing. Still other work injuries can be caused by the normal slip and falls that unfortunately do happen from time to time. In addition, many people do not even realize that if they are driving for work purposes and are injured in an automobile collision, they can collect under the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act.
Steffens Law Office represents injured workers before the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court.
The Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act is essentially a “no fault” law and differs from the need to prove negligence or fault, as in other areas of personal injury law. In essence, when you are injured while working, doing what you are supposed to be doing, you can recover from your employer (typically your employer’s insurance carrier, which is why employers carry workers’ compensation insurance). Your recovery is based upon your wages, your injury, and other factors, such as your loss of earnings power. The Act, while not perfect, does provide an avenue for injured workers to receive compensation for their injuries.
Specifically, the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Act provides injured employees with payment for time lost from work, payment for medical expenses incurred as a result of the injury, and compensation based upon the severity and permanency of the injury. In select situations, the law also provides for people who are so severely injured that they cannot return to their job and must be retrained or paid total disability benefits. In addition, the law sets forth penalties and interest for the unreasonable delay in paying benefits determined to be due to the injured person.
For most injury victims, this is completely foreign territory. They don’t understand that doing, or not doing, seemingly insignificant things, can sometimes have a huge impact on their case. Our law office has handled many workers’ compensation cases, and in doing so, we have learned that there are a number of important “rules” which must be followed in order to have a successful outcome in your case.
1. Do seek medical assistance immediately. The most important thing you can do when you suffer a workers’ compensation injury is to make sure you receive the necessary medical treatment. You do not want your health to be jeopardized, either short term or long term, because of a failure to go see your doctor following the injury. Don’t make the mistake of trying to “tough out” the pain or a new symptom because you don’t want to make a big deal out of the injury, or in an attempt to save medical expenses.
2. Do take photographs and collect evidence which will be valuable for your case. Take photographs of all the important elements in your case, such as the injured areas of your body, the bandages or other medical treatment of your wound after you have first gone to the doctor, the scene of the accident, and the damage to the vehicles involved. Take three (3) times as many photos as you feel are needed, from several angles with different lighting conditions, and in the days and weeks following the injury.
3. Do acknowledge and accept that your situation is essentially “you” versus the insurance company. “They” (the insurance company) are not on your side – “We” (the law office) are here to help you. With the exception of a few pleasant insurance representatives and case nurses, “they” want you to give up on your claim or to prove you are a fraud. “They” will try to frustrate you into giving up by denying or delaying medical treatment or indemnity payments. “They” will not inform you of your legal rights (not required to), and will sometimes give you misinformation. Don’t lose hope – “we” will do our best to help you through this tough time.
4. Do keep in mind that from the day you are injured the insurance company is watching, researching, reading, or in some way observing you. They do this through surveillance (taking photographs or filming you when you are not aware), reviewing your medical records, and sometimes by talking with you or someone you know over the telephone. Protect yourself by restricting your contact with the insurance company, and its representatives; and avoid activities that your doctor has warned you not to do.
5. Do stay in touch with our law office. Keep us informed of significant events. We do not recommend that you call every day, but you should contact us after each medical appointment with your primary doctor.
6. Don’t assume that all doctors are equal, or that it really doesn’t make any difference which one you see. One of our major objectives is to help you find the best medical care available. We would like to review the names of medical specialists, in your area, with you before you make a decision. Remember that we have done many, many injury cases like yours, and we know there are some medical specialists you really should not see – trust me on this.
7. Don’t make an appointment to see a specialist yourself. The appointment should be made by your family physician. This is called a “medical referral” and is usually accomplished by a telephone call, or letter from your doctor to the medical specialist. If you try and do this on your own, it will be viewed as “doctor shopping”, and it will hurt your case.
8. Do follow the advice of your medical doctor. The doctor’s advice will always appear in his or her medical records. When you do not follow the advice of your doctor, the insurance company assumes that you are healed, or are no longer in pain, or you would follow your doctor’s advice. This too hurts your case.
9. Do get a note from your doctor if you are not able to return to work. Make sure the note is faxed or emailed to your employer – so that you don’t lose your job. The note is also necessary to convince the insurance company that you really could not return to work because of your injury. This “no work” note should have a starting date and an ending date. Typically, your doctor will use your next medical appointment as the ending date. After the doctor sees you on that ending date, if you are still judged to be unfit to return to work, you will get another “no work” note from your doctor, so on and so forth.
10. Do follow any “restrictions” given to you by your doctor. Your restriction may be that you can only lift a certain amount, or work a certain number of hours, or not move in certain ways (bending or twisting as examples). You need to pay careful attention to follow these restrictions for two reasons: (1) for the sake of your health – if you push yourself beyond these restrictions the chances are good that you will hurt yourself worse; (2) if you are observed not following these restrictions, the insurance company assumes that you are a fraud who has lied to their doctor, and can do more than what they are telling their doctor. Insurance companies will spend thousands of dollars trying to catch you doing something you shouldn’t in order to prove that you are a fraud. Legally they can photograph you anywhere outside your home. They hire trained investigators to follow you, and film you, hoping to find evidence of fraud. If they accomplish this, your case becomes virtually worthless.
11. Do take the medication which the doctor prescribes. If, for example, a doctor prescribes pain medication, and you do not use it, the insurance company assumes that you are not in pain. While you may have a personal reason for not taking the prescription (for example it makes you nauseous), the insurance company will not view it this way unless you explain this to your doctor and ask him/her to put this explanation into your medical records. Also, some people who are in pain choose to take only pain killers and not other medications – like muscle relaxants. In the case of muscle relaxants, these medications help you heal, and also help with the pain. If you have a problem taking the medications which have been prescribed to you, please review this with our law office for further advice.
12. Don’t discontinue or put off medical help just because an insurance company won’t pay for it. There are typically other alternatives. If you have private health insurance, we usually ask that you move ahead with medical treatment by using your health insurance company. When your case settles, your health insurance carrier can be repaid. By passing up medical treatment when it is needed, your injuries can worsen, and you can lose more time from work. Your best strategy is to receive medical treatment as soon as possible, and not to wait.
Should you choose to hire the Steffens Law Office injury attorneys to represent you in your workers’ compensation case, you can expect our office to do the following:
Steffens Law Office represents workers’ compensation victims on a contingent fee arrangement. We collect no fees if you do not. If we are able to obtain a recovery for you, we will be paid a percentage of the recovery from the award.