When Do You Need to Lawyer Up?
Episode 12: Louisville workers’ compensation attorney Scott Scheynost explores the topic of when an injured person should hire an attorney. When do you need to lawyer up? Let’s listen to Scott share his perspective.
I’m Just Not that Type of Person
This is fairly common for most people. We’re not sitting around looking for a reason to file a lawsuit. In the area of workplace injury, the company may have the upper hand. They’ve handled numerous workers’ compensation claims, but it may be the first time for the employee who was injured on the job.
Rather than sitting in the executive offices looking for ways to contain costs, most of Scott’s clients are blue collar workers who show up and try to make a living working on the line. There’s an expectation that the company will take care of them. Once an injury occurs, that’s not always the case.
Often an injured worker is worried about losing a job or possibly having the company retaliate against them if he/she files a comp claim. In Kentucky, there are actually protections to prevent an employer from discriminating against an injured worker or retaliating against him/her.
Scott advises people to remember they are working for a business that wants to make money. An injury claim creates an expense and may lead to higher premiums for the workers’ compensation insurance the company carries. It may be time to lawyer up.
Company Executives Are Managing the Claim from the Start
If you’ve been hurt at work, the company has already begun managing your claim. This means they’re actively taking steps to minimize their costs and limit financial exposure. They may want to send you to a specific doctor who may minimize the extent of your injury. Remember, you have a right to pick your own doctor, under Kentucky law.
If your supervisor, Safety Director or HR contact is urging you to have the doctor send you back without work restrictions, you may assume they just want to get you back because you’re important to them. In reality, if the doctor doesn’t recommend restrictions, such as light duty or limited standing, etc., what’s actually happening is the company trying to reduce your workers’ compensation benefits.
Some companies will begin looking for reasons to fire the employee. Simply put, it’s not a level playing field. If you’re not careful, you may be stepping onto that field without a helmet. It may be time to lawyer up.
Is My Employer Required to Hold My Job?
The short answer, in Kentucky, is no. The company is not required to hold your job. Union contracts may provide you some options, but as a matter of law you can be replaced.
The Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) may provide a small period of protection, but once that’s over, you may be out of options.
Time Isn’t on Your Side
The older you are, the more difficult it may be to heal and return to work. Even if you’ve worked for a company for 10 or 20 years, once you’ve suffered a workplace injury, you may not get treated the way you were before you took time off. Unfortunately for some injured workers, difficult decisions may have to be made.
The more serious your injury, the more important it is to maximize your workers’ compensation benefits. That may mean you need work with an attorney to file an official workers’ comp claim. It may be time to lawyer up.
If you have a serious injury and you’re wondering if you might not be able to return to work, you should consult an experienced Kentucky workers’ compensation attorney.
Your Important First Step
Once you’ve been injured on the job, you are required to inform your supervisor or someone higher up the ladder. This is a requirement under Kentucky law. If you fail to do so, you could lose your right to file a workers’ compensation claim.
Once you’ve done that, Scott recommends you should begin gathering information about your rights and your potential benefits. Often, that means consulting and/or hiring an attorney. Remember, the company is already taking steps to save money. That often means they’re trying to limit your benefits or your employment.
Kentucky Provides the Right to Lifetime Medical Treatment
Now, in 2018 the law changed and made it more challenging, but it’s still available. You’ll have to reapply after 15 years, so make sure you and your family understand your obligations. Not every injury is eligible, however serious injuries typically qualify.
Don’t be surprised if the insurance company offers a lump sum payment, instead of future medical expenses. Sometimes this can work to your benefit, but not always. You definitely need to speak with an experienced attorney to make sure you’re considering all of the factors. He/she will also help you to understand if it’s a reasonable offer.
A workers’ compensation settlement may also need a Medicare set aside provision. If you haven’t taken this into consideration, you could have problems down the road.
Scott Explains His Attorney Fees
Scott works on a contingency fee basis. This means he can begin working on your claim and won’t get paid until the end. Normally, he’ll handle the case fees, medical records fees and other expenses. Those fees (including his attorney fee) and expenses will be deducted from the settlement, once the case is finished. There’s no upfront cost.
Scott’s personal policy is that if his firm is not successful in your case, the fees and expenses are not passed to the client. His firm absorbs them.
Statute of Limitations
In Episode 11, we discussed the Statute of Limitations. Basically, there is a period during which you have to file an official workers’ compensation claim. If that period expires, your will not be able to file a claim. Again, this is a reason to lawyer up, if you’ve been injured on the job.
It takes a while to put together all of the evidence before your attorney files your claim. If you’ve waited too long, you may not be able to find an attorney willing to take your case. It’s better to seek legal advice early in the process.
It Cost You Nothing to Speak with Scott
Contact Scott Scheynost at (502) 937-5287. This podcast is meant to provide information and is not legal advice. Scott’s principal office is located at 7619 Dixie Highway, Louisville, KY 40258. Co-host Jim Ray is a non-attorney spokesperson. This is an advertisement.