You Work Hard For The Money--Disparity In Workers Comp Laws Mean Your Attorney Will Have To Do The Same
A popular 80s song contains the lyrics, "She works hard for the money, so you better treat her right." A tribute to blue collar employees, the song expounded the virtues of those who show up to work faithfully every day for little take-home pay. The workers compensation system was established to protect just these types of employees in case of accidental injury. However, today the workers comp system is a source of exasperation for injured workers because of the disparities in benefits from state to state. If you work hard for your money and are injured in certain states, your attorney is also going to have to work hard to get you the compensation you deserve.
History of workers comp
Prompted by social activists in the early 1900s, states enacted workers compensation laws to compensate employees who suffered injury in the workplace. Wisconsin pioneered the movement in 1911, and Mississippi brought up the rear in 1948. Since then, every state has required that employers carry insurance which will cover the cost of treatment for workplace injuries; further, insurance is also supposed to cover ⅔ of your income during the time you are unable to work. An intrinsic component of workers comp is to rehabilitate injured employees so that they can return to the job.
"State" of the industry
The condition of the workers comp system these days, however, might make those early activists groan. Disparities in the amount of benefits payable from state to state for the same injury have many crying foul. Here are just a few examples to illustrate the problem:
The average compensation paid for an arm lost in a workplace accident is $169,878. However, if you live in Connecticut you may be compensated as much as $209,128. If you live in Alabama, you will receive just $48,840.
Lose an eye? In Oregon, it's worth $156,920 while in Louisiana it's valued at $63,000. The national average is $96,700.
Even testicles have monetary value. While the national average for the loss of one testicle is $27,678, in Washington it's only worth $3,750 while in Connecticut it's worth $34,685.
Further, you may receive less compensation for an injury if you are a woman, especially if you were pregnant or going through menopause at the time of the accident. Why? Some insurance companies point to "pre-existing conditions" that, in their opinion, aggravate certain workplace injuries.
What you can do
If you have been injured in a workplace accident, the first thing to do is contact an experienced workers comp attorney. The consultation is usually free, and the attorney will advise you as to the specifics of your case. Many attorneys work on a contingency basis, which means that you will not have to pay anything until you receive an award.
Even if you live in a state which sets low maximum benefits for your injuries, larger awards may be possible if your attorney can present a compelling case to the judge. Here are some ways you can maximize the likelihood of receiving a favorable settlement:
Keep a paper trail. Complete and thorough documentation is critical to proving the need for maximum compensation for your injuries. Keep medical records, correspondence, and other important information about your case well-organized by date and category.
Communication is key. Make sure to keep in close contact with your doctor and attorney, to keep both apprised of pertinent updates in your condition. If you receive a call or letter from your employer concerning your case, make sure to inform your attorney right away.
Let your attorney steer the ship. Your attorney is going to be familiar with cases just like yours, and knows what aspects to emphasize or minimize. Rather than striving, cooperate. The two of you working together stand a greater chance of winning than if you are second-guessing each tactic along the way. Remember, your attorney is on your side. Further, the bigger the settlement you are awarded, the bigger the amount he/she earns; there's motivation for victory.
Fighting what seem like unfair compensatory standards for your injury may be frustrating. Hopefully, a new generation of social activists will rise up to push for national standards that will level the playing field for workers comp. Until then, the best advice for you is to hire an experienced attorney who will work hard for your money.