4 cases when injured workers should hire an attorney

Injured workers may want to hire a lawyer if a claim is disputed or denied, a low settlement offer is made or a third-party claim may be appropriate.

Each year, thousands of people in Schenectady sustain injuries in the course of their jobs, which may range from mild trauma to permanently disabling conditions. In 2014, over 213,000 people in New York suffered work-related injuries or illnesses, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Over half of those individuals required time off work or lost their ability to fully perform their jobs as a result.

The victims of workplace injuries may be entitled to various forms of compensation, according to the New York Workers' Compensation Bureau, including medical benefits and cash benefits to address wage loss. Many workers may consider pursuing this compensation independently, but this can be inadvisable. In the following common situations, workers may benefit significantly from seeking the assistance of an attorney during the claim process.

1. Disputed claims

In New York, employees are entitled to workers' compensation benefits if they suffer injuries as a direct result of their jobs. However, if an injury occurs under unusual circumstances, such as an employer-ordered errand, the employer's insurance carrier may contest whether the injury qualifies as work-related. This is also true if an injury does not have clear-cut origins, as in the following cases:

· Repetitive stress injuries. These injuries arise when employees repeatedly perform the same motions.

· Aggravation of pre-existing conditions. Injuries may also occur when an employee's job duties aggravate or worsen a pre-existing condition or disability.

· Occupational diseases. These are diseases that arise naturally in the course of a person's job, due to the unique characteristics or risks of the job.

Documenting the cause of any of these injuries can be challenging because they occur gradually, rather than during a single incident. Consequently, the victims of these injuries may benefit from partnering with an attorney who has experience handling these difficult cases.

2. Inadequate settlement offers

To accept a settlement from an employer, workers in New York must sign a Section 32 Waiver Agreement, which addresses an employer's liability for medical expenses, lost wages or both. These agreements relieve the insurance carrier of liability and prevent the worker from revisiting the settlement terms later. Therefore, it is critical for workers to carefully evaluate whether a settlement is sufficient. A lawyer may be able to help a person assess a proposed settlement and, if necessary, seek a more appropriate one in a hearing.

3. Claim denial

If a hearing results in the denial of a worker's claim, the worker has a right to appeal the decision. However, employees only have 30 days to do so, and they must secure additional evidence or documentation to support the claim. An attorney may be able to help a person fully understand the reasons for the denial and prepare a compelling case for the appeal.

4. Third party claims

Many work-related accidents involve negligence on the part of a third party, such as a driver or an equipment manufacturer. The victims of these accidents may be able to seek additional damages through a personal injury lawsuit. An attorney who is versed in both areas of law may be able to advise a worker of whether filing a third party claim is an option and, if so, help the person manage the relevant deadlines and documentation for each claim.

Speak to a representative

To better understand the potential benefits of partnering with a workers' compensation attorney, injured employees should consider scheduling a consultation with one. An attorney may be able to advise a worker of possible complications in his or her case and other factors that make legal representation advisable.