This brochure has been prepared by the Section of Negligence, Insurance and Workers’ Compensation and and the Public Awareness Committee. It is intended to inform the public and not serve as legal advice.
ACCIDENTAL INJURIES AND OCCUPATIONAL DISEASES
The State of Maryland permits you to receive workers’ compensation benefits only if your injury results from an accident. An accidental injury is defined as an injury resulting from some unusual strain, exertion or condition in your job. For example, if your job requires lifting 50-pound sacks, and you suffer a back injury lifting a 50-pound sack, then you will not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, if you slipped while lifting a 50-pound sack, then you would receive workers’ compensation benefits. Remember, the circumstances of the incident which causes your injury are very important. You are also permitted to receive workers’ compensation benefits if you have an injury or condition caused by an occupational disease.
An occupational disease is an illness, ailment, or disorder affecting workers in a particular type of job. Unlike accidental injuries, occupational diseases do not generally result from unusual strain or exertion in a job. Rather, they occur slowly over a period of time, and result from conditions inherent in it.
REPORT THE INCIDENT
Before you can receive workers’ compensation benefits you must report the incident of injury to your employer. Failure to do this in a timely manner may result in a denial. Remember to note when and to whom you reported the incident of injury.
SEE YOUR DOCTOR
In order to receive workers’ compensation benefits, your doctor must find that, as a result of your accidental injury or occupational disease, you are unable to work. Therefore, it is important to see your doctor as soon after the incident as possible. You may see any physician you choose – the law does not require you to see or be treated by a doctor selected by your employer. The doctor you choose will prescribe a treatment program and will release you to work when your condition has improved. It is very important that you strictly follow your doctor’s treatment recommendations.
KEEP TRACK OF EXPENSES
The workers’ compensation laws require your employer’s insurance company to reimburse you for any expenses you incur while receiving treatment. For example, you are entitled to reimbursement for prescription medicines, mileage and travel expenses you are forced to incur as part of your treatment. Therefore, from the outset, you should maintain a daily diary in which you keep track of all expenses, including prescription costs, mileage and travel expenses. In addition, you must keep receipts verifying the expenses or you will not be entitled to reimbursement.
BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU SAY
You may believe that if injured on the job you are automatically entitled to benefits. However, the law requires more. Be careful what you say – allowing someone to take a tape-recorded or written statement concerning your injury may jeopardize your right to receive benefits. The requirements – proof of accidental injury, prompt notice and medical documentation of the disability – must all be satisfied before you receive benefits. Therefore, giving a recorded or written statement prematurely may give the employer and insurer evidence to successfully prevent you from receiving benefits. Once again, be very careful what you say or write about your claim.
FILE YOUR CLAIM QUICKLY
The law allows a limited time to file a claim. This time period is known as the Statute of Limitations. While the Statute of Limitations for filing a claim in most cases is two years from the date of of the injury, you should file your claim as soon as possible. If the Statute of Limitations period ends before you file your claim, it will be very difficult, if not impossible, to secure workers’ compensation benefits. By filing a claim, you are placing the burden on your employer and insurer to either pay you benefits or contest the claim.
CONSULT A LAWYER PROMPTLY
If you plan to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits, the sooner you seek legal advice the better. The workers’ compensation laws prohibit an attorney from charging a fee, unless the attorney is successful in making your claim for benefits. Therefore, it should not cost you anything to discuss your claim with an attorney. Your attorney’s advice will be very important in ensuring that you receive the maximum benefits to which you are entitled by law. At the very least, you should get legal advice before filing your claim or allowing any person to take a statement from you concerning your claim.
WORKERS’ COMPENSATION BENEFITS
The four most common benefits to which you may be entitled if you are hurt on the job are:
- Temporary Disability Benefits – These are benefits which you receive during the period when you are in the process of healing and totally or partially unable to perform your work duties. The amount of the benefits for total disability will equal two-thirds of your average weekly wage, up to a maximum amount established by law. For partial disability, the benefit is one-half of the difference between your average weekly wage and amount of your earnings after the injury, up to a maximum amount.
- Permanent Disability Benefits – If your accidental injury causes a permanent impairment, you are entitled to compensation for a permanent partial or a permanent total disability. For a permanent partial disability, the benefits are based on a percentage of disability to the part of your body which is affected, and are paid on a weekly basis at a rate established by law. For a permanent total disability, you are paid two-thirds of your average weekly wage up to a maximum amount, plus a cost of leaving adjustment, indefinitely.
- Medical Treatment – The employer and insurer are responsible to pay any and all medical expenses which you incur for the treatment of the injury you suffer on the job.
- Vocational Rehabilitation – If your injury is so severe that you cannot go back to your old job, the employer and insurer are responsible for providing you with vocational rehabilitation services. A vocational counselor will be assigned to assist you in returning to the work force. Vocational rehabilitation efforts should take into consideration your age, education, work experience and the nature of the injury you sustained, and should be designed to ensure that you receive the maximum possible salary when you return to the workplace.
REOPENING THE CLAIM IN THE FUTURE
A workers’ compensation claim can provide long-term benefits when you are injured on the job. You may be entitled to have your case reopened if the injury you sustained on the job worsens. Two conditions must be met before before you reopen a claim based on worsening of condition. First, your condition must have deteriorated since you last received disability benefits. Second, and most important, in order to receive additional compensation for disability, you must file a request with the Workers’ Compensation Commission within five years from the date of the accident or disablement, or the date when you were last paid compensation benefits, whichever is later. This five year limitation does not apply to your right to medical care and treatment for your injury; this right to receive medical care and treatment continues for the rest of your life.
Filing for Workers’ Compensation © 1990, MSBA, Inc. Third Revision 2002, Reviewed 2014
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