Employment in the construction industry has seen a double-digit increase in the last decade. Unfortunately, injuries to workers during this time have also increased. The construction industry is one of the most dangerous places to work in the U.S.
When construction workers get hurt on the job, their employer’s workers’ compensation policy often covers them. It will pay for the medical expenses associated with their treatment, plus wage replacement while they recover from their injury. Reach out to a construction accident lawyer.The workers’ compensation benefits are the only remedy you have against your employer in most cases. However, there may be other parties who were responsible for causing your injury. In that case, you may be able to recover more money to cover your damages in a personal injury claim.
Here is a look at what happens if a construction worker gets hurt.
The Worker Obtains Medical Treatment for Their Injuries
Construction sites feature innumerable hazards for workers, including the risk of falling, being struck by equipment, fires and explosions, transportation accidents, electrocution, and more. Workers injured at the job site are encouraged to seek immediate medical treatment for their injury. If the injury is serious and the worker becomes incapacitated, this medical treatment often begins with an ambulance ride.
However, even if the worker does not believe he or she is seriously injured, it is still important to seek treatment for all injuries. This ensures the injury is not more serious than initially thought and provides medical documentation of the injury.
Can the Worker Pick Their Physician?
Each state has laws regarding whether a worker injured in a job-related accident can choose their physician. In Michigan, for example, the injured worker’s employer may pick the physician that treats the worker for the first 28 days of treatment. If treatment is ongoing after that point, the worker can choose where they obtain treatment. If the worker decides to change physicians, they must provide written notice to their employer and their workers’ compensation insurer.
You File a Claim
Workers are required to report their injury as soon as possible to the employer. The employer must then file a claim with the provider of their workers’ compensation policy. If the employer refuses to file the claim, the injured worker can make a claim within two years of the date of the injury.
Michigan has a seven-day waiting period before wage-loss benefits begin. If the injury lasts longer than 14 days—including holidays and weekends—the worker may recover the compensation they would have earned during the seven-day waiting period. Wage loss benefits typically are around 80 percent of the worker’s after-tax wages.
Can the Claim Be Denied?
Workers’ compensation is a form of no-fault insurance, making the benefits available to workers injured on the job regardless of who was at fault for the accident. However, it doesn’t cover every injury.
Workers’ compensation insurance can deny claims because:
- The employer believes that the injury sustained by the worker didn’t happen at work. Workers’ compensation is not available if you injured yourself at home, en route to work, or while taking an off-site break.
- The worker failed to notify their employer of the injury promptly.
- The worker sought treatment from an unapproved physician, or the treatment was deemed unnecessary by the insurance provider.
- The employer or insurer believes you deliberately caused the injury to collect workers’ compensation benefits.
- The injury occurred due to horseplay, or the worker was intoxicated at the time of the injury.
If the workers’ compensation provider denies the claim, they must inform the worker and provide information about how the employer can appeal that decision.
What Is the Personal Injury Claims Process?
Like workers’ compensation, personal injury claims generally begin as a claim against an insurance policy. You may file third-party claims against an at-fault party’s auto liability insurance or business liability policy.
The insurance provider can either choose to accept the claim, deny the claim, or offer to settle the claim out-of-court for less than its established value. However, the claim can also be filed as a personal injury lawsuit in civil court for a court to determine liability and order compensation.
Personal injury claims can allow you to recover compensation for things that are not covered by workers’ compensation, including pain and suffering and emotional distress.
How Long Do Workers’ Compensation Benefits Last?
In Michigan, workers’ compensation benefits last as long as the worker continues to be disabled by the injury. At age 65, benefits will be reduced to account for compensation available through Social Security or other retirement programs.
The benefits will continue to decrease up to 5 percent each year until the recipient reaches 75 years old. Permanent benefits can also decrease if you recover compensation through a personal injury claim, other employer-funded benefits, and benefits offered by different programs.
Returning to Work After the Injury
The goal for most injured workers, their employers, and workers’ compensation insurance providers—is for the employee to recover from their injury and return to work. As the worker’s physician continues to treat them and monitor their recovery, the employee will be subject to tests to determine whether they can do job-related tasks such as standing, sitting, or lifting.
Sometimes, a workers’ compensation insurer will order an independent medical evaluation, which is an evaluation performed by a physician of the insurance company’s choice who does not regularly treat the patient. Insurers do this to claim that they have greater clarity about the worker’s ability to perform job-related tasks, but these “independent” evaluators are rarely the best judge of your circumstances. Michigan law requires workers’ compensation claimants to submit to an independent medical examination if requested.
The Type of Disability Benefits Available Through Workers’ Comp
Depending on the type and duration of your injury, there are four types of disability benefits available through a workers’ compensation claim that seek to replace a portion of the wages that the worker cannot earn due to their injury.
- Temporary partial disability benefits replace a portion of the wages lost for injured workers who can still perform some job-related tasks. The worker may be put on light duty or reduced work hours while they recover.
- Temporary total disability benefits provide wage replacement for workers who temporarily cannot at all work due to their injury.
- Permanent partial disability benefits are available for workers who can no longer perform the tasks of the job they had when the injury occurred, but who can perform the tasks of another, lower-paying job.
- Permanent total disability benefits are available for workers whose injuries are believed to be permanent and substantially prevent them from performing the required tasks of any job. These benefits are typically available throughout the sufferer’s life, though they will decrease when the worker reaches the age of 65 and again at age 75.
The construction industry has the greatest number of fatal work-related injuries nationwide. Workers’ compensation also provides death benefits for the family members of workers killed on the job. Death benefits in Michigan would include wage replacement for 500 weeks following the death of the worker or longer if the deceased worker had dependent children.
How an Attorney Can Help with Your Claim
While workers’ compensation programs provide an easy way for workers to obtain the assistance they need to recover from a job-related accident, the process is often confusing, frustrating, and overwhelming. Fortunately, many personal injury lawyers are workers’ compensation lawyers and provide a wealth of experience, resources, and assistance for injured workers.
Some of the services an attorney can provide to injured construction workers include:
- Assistance in determining the best avenue for obtaining compensation. As noted, some construction site accidents result from third-party negligence and a personal injury claim can lead to additional compensation. In contrast, workers’ compensation covers any claim against your employer or co-worker. An attorney will investigate the accident to determine the source of liability.
- Assistance in filing a workers’ compensation claim. An employer most often files this type of claim. However, the employee can also file the claim if the employer has not done so. Individuals in this situation can obtain assistance with filing the claim.
- Legal representation during an independent medical examination. Insurers often order these examinations if they believe the worker is being less than truthful about the nature and severity of their injury. An attorney can explain the examination process to the worker and even attend the examination to ensure the worker’s fair treatment.
- Legal representation when appealing a workers’ compensation decision. Workers can appeal decisions about whether they qualify for benefits and how much they can receive in wage replacement. Suppose the worker feels the workers’ compensation insurer made a wrong decision about their coverage. In that case, an attorney can help the worker gather the information necessary to prove their right to compensation and can present the case at hearings that occur as part of the appellate process.
- Assistance in negotiating a single payment for certain injuries. In addition to wage replacement while the worker recovers from their injury, lump sum payments can pay for a permanent loss of body function, such as a traumatic amputation resulting in the loss of an arm or a chemical incident that causes a worker to lose their eyesight.
- Assistance expediting payments and fixing other administrative errors.
The experienced attorneys at Gruel Mills regularly handle personal injury claims that arise at construction sites. Although we do not handle the workers’ compensation process, we can refer you to another attorney we trust if you need representation. We are happy to review your situation and see if you may have a personal injury claim against any third party.
Affording an Experienced Construction Accident Attorney
Many injured workers are reluctant to seek the assistance of an experienced construction accident attorney because they don’t believe they can afford one. This reaction is reasonable, seeing how the individual cannot work due to their injury and is likely facing quickly mounting expenses.
However, most attorneys who practice this area of the law, including Gruel Mills, ensure that anyone who was injured and needs legal assistance can afford their assistance.
The contingent fee billing method allows the injured worker to hire an attorney without paying any hourly fees or retainer. If or when the claim is resolved in the injured workers’ favor, a percentage of the settlement or judgment is used to pay the attorney for their services. The personal injury attorney and worker will sign a contingent fee agreement when they start working together that will spell out how this will work.
Additionally, Gruel Mills offers free consultations, with no obligation to hire us. We can review the circumstances of your injury and help you understand if it is worth pursuing a third party negligence claim. Call us today to set up your free consultation.