Yearly Archives: 2016

If I settle my case am I going to have to quit my job?

Workers' Compensation

Often, but not always, an employer will ask you to resign as part of a certain type of settlement. Those settlements usually are significantly larger than being paid for your rating. When you take your rating it is extremely unlikely that you’d be asked to resign.

The reason that an employer may do this is that the insurance company is paying you to give up their obligation for your future medical care. So say they give you $50,000.00 to give up the right to medical care for your back. And then six weeks later you blow out your back again… that $50k is in your pocket and you have a whole new claim. Which is going to cost them a bunch of money again.

We’ve had potential clients tell us that their employer fired everyone who filed workers’ compensation claims. Many times we’ve represented the “fired” employee and they, in fact, were not fired at all. Their employer had paid them a lot of extra money to get them to resign. This was something that our clients considered and willingly did because it fit into their goals. Many of them had other jobs lined up, some were ready to retire, and others were planning on staying home and raising a family. Why would an employer spread the rumor that these people had been fired? A possible answer is that the rumor was intended to deter other workers from filing workers’ compensation claims. Think about it… if you ran a company and wanted to prevent people from filing workers compensation claims would you say that people who had claims got paid tens, or hundreds of thousands of dollars? Or would you quietly create an atmosphere of fear and let potential claimants wonder if they’re going to lose their job and be destitute.

One last thing while we are on this point. If you’re employer has changed insurance companies while your claim was going on it is much more likely that you can settle the case – even get the extra money for giving up future medical care – because that insurance company is no longer paying for your employer’s new claims. So the need to get you out of there isn’t an issue anymore.

Do I pay taxes on my Workers’ Compensation benefits?

Workers' Compensation

Workers’ compensation benefits are tax-free. This means you will not pay taxes on your weekly checks or on the settlement. Social Security Disability payments are taxable though – including the amounts offset by workers’ compensation. This is technical so you should call an attorney or your tax advisor.

Can I sue my employer for negligence?

Workers' Compensation

No. Your only avenue is through workers’ compensation. It is possible in some instances to get an additional 10% penalty against your employer if you can prove that they willfully failed to comply with any statutory requirement. While the law doesn’t specifically state, this it is generally understood to refer to a safety statute.

In practice, we have seen the Industrial Commission enforce this law very, very rarely. Understand that “willful failure” is a high standard to meet. That is far more serious that “should have known” or even “stupidity” and “reckless behavior.”

The only exception to this is if your employer was required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance and failed to do so. The employer cannot then claim the Workers’ Compensation Act as a defense in a lawsuit. As a practical matter, this comes up most often in the construction industry.

I was injured because of someone’s mistake. Can I sue them?

Workers' Compensation

You may absolutely sue a third party – that is someone, other than your employer, who negligently, recklessly, or willfully injured you.

The catch to this is that your employer may also sue the third party in an effort to recoup the money that has been paid out on your worker’s compensation claim. There are very technical laws regarding who gets first chance at this and how the money is distributed. These are more technical than can be explained here as they are quite detailed.

Generally, your workers’ compensation claim will be handled first and possibly resolved prior to the personal injury claim being file or at least resolved. While it isn’t required to use the same law firm for both claims it is often helpful to do so. Additionally, it is generally best for the attorneys handling your personal injury claim to be involved at least partially in your workers’ compensation settlement. There are certain ways of settling the workers’ compensation claim that will give you more money in your personal injury case.

My health insurance paid some of my bills. Do I have to pay them back?

Workers' Compensation

This is another of our favorite “it depends” questions. If your health insurance is an ERISA plan then you’ll likely have to pay at least some of the money back. Multi-state employers, through some unions, etc., usually carry ERISA plans. On the other hand, if you have a local health insurance plan then the answer is that you probably will not have to pay them back. This requires an attorney putting the proper language into your settlement documents though.

If your claim is denied and your health insurance is also denying coverage be sure that you send in a copy of your Form 61. Once the health insurance company sees that your claim is denied they are supposed to begin covering your bills. You may receive a letter from your insurance company asking for details about your workers’ compensation claim. If you do, this requires a prompt conversation with a lawyer.