No one expects to get injured at work, but unfortunately, it happens all too often. Ineffective harnesses can cause a construction worker to fall from a height, and anyone in any industry may slip and fall in the workplace. These are just two types of on-the-job accidents, and there are literally millions that happen in West Virginia and throughout the country every year.
When those accidents happen, the resulting injuries are not only serious, they can prevent someone from going to work. Meanwhile, the injured individual has a growing stack of medical bills and other daily expenses to manage. Fortunately, injured workers have many options for compensation when they are hurt on the job. A workers’ compensation attorney in West Virginia can explain them all thoroughly.
Workers’ Compensation in West Virginia
Most employers in West Virginia are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance provides coverage specifically for employees who are injured at work. In West Virginia, the workers’ compensation system is no-fault, meaning it does not matter who was at fault for the accident, or if the injured employee contributed to it.
In exchange for this coverage, employees give up their right to sue their employer for an injury sustained during a workplace accident. Instead, the injured individual must tell his or her employer and file a claim with the Offices of the Insurance Commissioner to get workers’ compensation benefits.
Injured individuals need to file a claim for workers’ compensation immediately following an accident. There is a time limit of six months for claims made due to injury. Those suffering from an occupational disease have three years from the date they were exposed to a harmful substance to file.
Obtaining workers’ compensation benefits sounds like a fairly straightforward process, but it is not. Insurance companies do not want to pay out on claims. Instead, they would rather keep their profits for themselves. Insurance companies sometimes try to downplay the severity of injuries in order to offer low and unfair settlements. A workers’ compensation attorney in West Virginia can help injured workers throughout the entire claims process to ensure they are treated fairly and their rights are upheld.
Third Party Lawsuits in West Virginia
It is true that an injured worker cannot sue his or her employer for a workplace injury. The worker also cannot usually sue a co-worker who caused the accident. However, when a third party was negligent and that negligence caused the workplace accident, then the injured worker can file a third-party personal injury lawsuit.
Third parties include anyone who is not an employee of that same employer. Subcontractors, other drivers, property owners, municipalities, and manufacturers are just a few possible third parties. When a third party is negligent and causes an accident, anyone injured can file a personal injury lawsuit against that person.
For example, a man working as a courier is driving to a location to deliver a package. On the way, another driver not employed by the same employer hits his vehicle, causing a car accident that shatters his leg bones and leaves him unable to return to work for months. The courier can file a personal injury lawsuit against the other driver in order to claim compensation for medical expenses, lost income, pain and suffering, and more.
Like workers’ compensation claims, third party lawsuits quickly become complex. They are often even more difficult due to the fact that the defendant, or person the lawsuit is being filed against, will raise defenses to try and avoid paying compensation.
One of the most common is that the injured individual was partly at fault for the accident. This reduces the amount of compensation he or she will receive, meaning the defendant can pay less. Anyone wishing to file a lawsuit against a third party for a workplace accident should speak to a personal injury attorney in West Virginia who can help.
Social Security Disability Benefits
Lastly, workers contribute to the Social Security program through every paycheck. These are known as Social Security taxes, or FICA taxes. This small deduction provides Social Security disability benefits (SSDI) to workers in the event that they become injured at work. A person must be eligible for SSDI before receiving benefits, which typically means being in the workforce for a certain amount of time.
Another requirement for SSDI is that injured workers must have a medical condition that prevents them from performing basic work-related activities on a long-term basis. Individuals can only receive SSDI if their injury or illness will keep them from working for more than one year.
SSDI can provide many benefits to injured workers, but individuals will not receive them for at least five months. Even if the application is approved right away, the five-month waiting period will prevent them from accessing their benefits.
Most people who apply for SSDI do not get approved right away. They are typically turned down and must begin the appeals process. If, after appealing the decision once, an injured worker is turned down again, he or she will need to have a hearing. At this hearing injured workers must convince an administrative law judge that their injuries are serious and prevent them from working.
The process of applying for SSDI is often one of the most frustrating options for injured workers. An SSDI lawyer in West Virginia can help ensure forms are filled out accurately and completely, and that those injured follow all the necessary steps within the deadlines set out by the Social Security Administration. This will increase their chances of approval and of receiving benefits as soon as possible.
Injured at Work? You Need the Right Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in West Virginia
No one should have to suffer from a work injury alone. There are simply too many options out there. If you have been injured at work, contact a West Virginia workers’ compensation attorney.
At Goddard & Wagoner, we will outline all possible solutions to get you the benefits you need while you recover from your injury. We will help you choose which one is best for you, and remain by your side every step of the way. No matter which route you take to get benefits, we’ll ensure your rights are upheld and that you receive the compensation you deserve. Time is possibly running out on your claim, so call us today at (304) 470-8441, or fill out our online form for your free consultation.