3 factors that can make legal representation crucial for injured workers

The complexity of workers’ compensation law and the difficulty of securing adequate benefits may make representation beneficial for many injured workers.

Workplace injuries occur all too frequently in New York and other states. In 2013, a staggering 3 million work-related injuries were reported across the U.S., according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. After these injuries, many victims may consider going through the workers' compensation claim process alone. However, this decision can have harmful long-term consequences. The following factors all make it advisable for injured workers in Schenectady to seek legal advice and even representation.

1. Complexity of laws

Many injured workers may not fully understand their rights or the workers' compensation claim process. For example, workers may have misconceptions about the requirements that claims must meet, the available benefits or the medical treatment that they are entitled to. A lawyer may be able to help an employee better understand all of these important issues.

An attorney can also ensure that a worker is familiar with the requirements and limitations that state workers' compensation laws impose. As an example, people making workers' compensation claims in New York must beware of all of the following:

  • Statutes of limitations - workers must generally notify employers in writing of their injuries within 30 days. The New York Workers' Compensation Board must receive notice within two years.
  • Treatment guidelines - outside of emergency care, workers are only permitted to visit authorized pharmacies and healthcare providers for treatment.
  • Mandatory medical exams - insurers have the right to require injured workers to visit authorized local healthcare providers for medical examinations.

Failure to adhere to these policies can jeopardize a worker's claim or ability to receive compensation. By working with a representative, injury victims can reduce the risk of making inadvertent missteps that harm their claims.

2. Recent legal reforms

National Public Radio reports that in recent years, many states have implemented reforms that limit the compensation workers can receive. These reforms often have the most severe impacts on workers who have suffered grave injuries and have the greatest need for support. For example, in New York, the amount of compensation that is available to permanently partially disabled workers has dropped 20 percent.

Often, even when employees secure workers' compensation benefits, those benefits may not provide for their financial needs. According to a Department of Labor report, even with workers' compensation benefits factored in, the average worker experiences a 15 percent drop in yearly income during the decade after an injury. In light of these facts, it is essential for injured workers to take any steps possible to improve their likelihood of receiving the full amount of compensation available.

3. Potential for other compensation

Workers who navigate their claims alone also may overlook some of the available forms of compensation. For example, workers who suffered injuries because of people other than co-workers or employers may be able to make third-party claims against the responsible parties. An attorney can advise an employee of these more unusual means of securing compensation.

Many injured employees may hesitate to seek legal advice due to concerns about the associated cost. However, many workers' compensation attorneys offer free initial consultations and work on a contingency basis, in which payment is collected only from the eventual settlement. Considering this and the many benefits of working with a qualified professional, it's advisable for injured workers to at least consult with an attorney as soon as reasonably possible.