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By: Jerry Sisk, Partner at Mottaz & Sisk Injury Law
No one anticipates being injured in the workplace. But when an on-the-job injury happens, it’s imperative the injured party knows what to do to. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there are 2.8 million nonfatal workplace accidents and injuries annually across the nation’s private employment industry. That translates to approximately 2.8 people out of 100 who are injured at work, reports the U.S. BLS.
The insurance Information Institute (III) zeroed in on who was most likely to be injured in private industry in 2021. Healthcare workers are high on the list—nursing assistants, registered nurses, personal care aides, and licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses. Laborers, truck drivers, heavy and tractor-trailer operators, production workers, and general maintenance and repair workers all face a higher risk of job-related injury. Retail salespersons and those who stock and fulfill orders are also among the top 10 private industry occupations with the largest number of injuries and illnesses, according to the III.
Under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation law, employees are entitled to certain benefits from their employers for most work-related injuries. In most cases, workers’ compensation provides the exclusive remedy for an injured worker against their employer for an injury. Having worked earlier in my career representing insurance companies, I know first-hand how these companies defend against lawsuits by manipulating the legal system in their favor. I currently work as a Minnesota work injury attorney, helping injured workers get the benefits they deserve.
Don’t Just Google it—or Rely on Inexperienced Counsel
Typically, my phone rings when an injured party is denied benefits by the insurance company or the employer. This denial can occur for a variety of reasons. A common pitfall is using Google to navigate the intricacies of filing of workers’ compensation claim. Or, they know an attorney who specializes in another area of law and is only slightly familiar with workers’ compensation law. The pitfalls with either of these approaches is that prior law may have changed in recent years. Relying on a Google search might not provide information based on current workers’ compensation law. The same is true for an attorney who hasn’t kept up on workers’ compensation law or forgets about changes because it’s not the sole focus of their practice area.
Both of these scenarios can lead to a denied claim—and significant harm to the already injured party. They may have to endure a permanent disability. They may experience financial loss because they can no longer work—or decide to work despite the injury. They may not be able to seek the medical care they need. Retaining an experienced workers’ compensation attorney up front goes a long way toward a positive outcome for the injured worker in the end.
Deadlines to File Claims Aren’t Open-Ended
A finite amount of time exists within which to report a work-related injury to an employer. This is especially important for cumulative or repetitive trauma injuries, known as a Gillette type injury in Minnesota workers’ compensation law. Repetitive trauma is also one of the leading causes of work-related injuries in the United States, particularly among retailer workers who are on the feet while working or others lifting products or stocking shelves.
If the injury has been reported to the employer and a claim is subsequently denied, the injured party has up to three years to dispute the finding. If a claim was never filed, the worker who failed to timely report an injury has up to six years to file a claim. I’ve counseled injured workers who never reported their injury and didn’t take the necessary steps to file a claim, resulting in the injury worsening over time or the employer not being as accommodating as they once were. Either way, the injured worker may not have any recourse, depending on the deadlines to dispute or file a claim.
Don’t Just Take a Settlement
Insurers often offer settlements to injured parties and some of these injured workers don’t consult at attorney because they want to avoid legal fees. This is not wise. Think of a medical procedure—would you perform your own surgery to save money? Expertise matters.
Remember that the insurance company works for the employer, not for the injured employee. It’s in the employer’s best interest to minimize any settlement payout and the insurance company works toward that end. That’s why it’s important to reach out to an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation law to ensure the injured worker isn’t losing out on a significantly higher payout.
Jerry Sisk is recognized by Super Lawyers magazine as a Super Lawyer and Rising Star. He sits on the Executive Committee for the Minnesota State Bar Association and Minnesota Association of Justice. Currently, Jerry is Chair of the Workers’ Compensation section of the Minnesota Association of Justice. He is co-host of the Podcast, “MN Work Comp Connection,” and a contributor to the Minnesota Association of Justice Trial magazine.