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Biloxi Workers’ Compensation Lawyers Providing Legal Services for Injured Workers
Most employers in the state of Mississippi are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover any job-related injuries or illnesses sustained by their employees. But how does workers’ compensation work in Mississippi, and what should a worker do if he or she is injured? Our attorneys explain what you need to know about workers’ comp in Mississippi.
Who Is Eligible to Receive Workers’ Compensation in Mississippi?
Employees working for a private employer with more than five workers are eligible for worker’s compensation in Mississippi, with the exception of agricultural workers, domestic workers, and those employed by a non-profit organization. Other employees such as federal workers, transportation, and maritime employees may be covered by federal worker’s compensation insurance.
Worker’s compensation insurance covers job-related injuries and illnesses. A worker may receive coverage for both traumatic injuries (sustained after a single accident on the job) or occupational injuries (resulting from exposure to repetitive movement over time, for example). A worker may also receive coverage for illnesses resulting from their job activities, such as cancer or lung disease after exposure to potentially harmful chemicals over a period of time.
What Steps Should I Take After Being Hurt at Work?
If you have suffered a job-related injury or have been diagnosed with an occupational disease that causes you to miss work for more than 5 days, your first step should be to notify your supervisor as soon as possible. Your employer should then report the injury to the Mississippi Worker’s Compensation Commission as well as to their insurance carrier. Failing to file a report with the Commission in a timely manner may result in significant penalties for the employer.
You may have to provide proof of your injury, such as medical records and exam results. In Mississippi, your employer may suggest that you see a certain doctor, but they cannot make it mandatory for you to see the doctor they choose. You are allowed to pick a doctor of your preference to treat your work injury or illness.
Is There a Deadline to Initiate a Workers’ Compensation Claim?
The process of filing a worker’s compensation claim has several deadlines that should be observed. First, the injured worker should report their injury no more than 30 days after it occurred or after receiving a diagnosis of an occupational disease. If you missed work for 5 days or more, your employer should notify the Worker’s Compensation Commission within 10 days. The deadline for an employee to file a worker’s comp claim is 2 years. However, if you have been hurt at work, it is in your best interest not to wait and report the injury to your supervisor right away and initiate the claim process as soon as possible.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?
If your claim is approved by the insurance company, you may receive coverage for medically necessary services and equipment, including doctor visits, hospital stays, and rehabilitation. Other items such as prescriptions, prosthetics, and even mileage incurred for going to and from appointments may also be covered.
In addition, workers who are considered disabled may receive temporary partial or total disability benefits, which usually cover two-thirds of their normal weekly wages for the period in which they are unable to work. If the partial disability is permanent, the worker may continue receiving compensation if he or she can return to work but is earning less due to the disability.
If you are unable to return to work in any capacity, you may receive permanent total disability payments. Most worker’s compensation disability payments may be issued for a maximum of 450 weeks.
In case a worker dies as a result of a job-related accident, death benefits may be available to his or her surviving spouse and/or certain dependents. In addition, the surviving family may receive up to $5000.00 to go towards funeral expenses.
What Should I Do if My Workers’ Compensation Claim Was Denied?
If your workers’ compensation claim was denied by the insurance company, your first step should be to find out the reasons for the denial. Oftentimes, claims can be denied due to a lack of proper medical evidence to support the claim, but it is important to learn the specific reasons that led the insurance company to deny benefits. You also have the right to appeal their decision.
It may be in your best interest to seek the help of an attorney if your claim has been denied or if you believe there is an error concerning your benefits. The process of disputing a denied claim begins by filing a Petition to Controvert with the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission, which should be done not more than two years after the date of your injury. Once your petition is received, the Commission will assign your case to a workers’ compensation judge, and the insurance company will be notified and must submit a response in writing.
At this stage, your case may be resolved through negotiations with the insurance company, and most cases are resolved in this manner. If you are unable to reach an agreement, your case may then require an administrative hearing before a worker’s comp judge. Before the hearing, both sides may go through a phase called discovery, in which each side may gather evidence and prepare for the hearing. The injured worker, as well as the insurance company, may have to submit a prehearing statement with an outline of what issues are being disputed and the evidence that will be presented. At the hearing, both the worker and the insurance company may present their side of the story, bring forward evidence to support their argument (including witnesses), and submit important documents. The judge will listen to both sides and make a decision. The decision will be made in writing and mailed to both parties after the hearing.
If you are not satisfied with the judge’s decision, you are able to appeal it to the Full Commission within 20 days of receiving the judge’s order. There is usually no hearing at this stage unless requested by both parties. The injured worker and the insurance carrier may submit written briefs presenting their legal arguments, and the Full Commission will make a decision and mail it to the parties.
You may also appeal the Full Commission’s decision if you are unhappy with it. This is usually done within 30 days of receiving the Full Commission’s decision, and the Workers’ Compensation Commission will then send your case to the Mississippi Supreme Court. The guidance of a workers’ compensation attorney is highly recommended at all stages of disputing a denied workers’ comp claim.
Can My Employer Fire Me While I Am on Workers’ Comp?
In many states, firing an employee because he or she submitted a workers’ compensation claim may be considered retaliation. However, Mississippi is an at-will employment state, which means your employer may fire you at any time and for any reason. You may be fired for misconduct, poor performance, and yes – even while you are filing a workers’ compensation claim. Unfortunately, there is no job protection for injured workers in the state.
On a more positive note, whenever a worker is fired after sustaining a work injury, the law allows a judge to automatically presume that you were fired because of your injury despite the reasons your employer may present. This may give you and your attorney some leverage to negotiate a better settlement. You may also resort to filing a claim with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission if you believe you were fired based on race, gender, age, religion, nationality, or disability.
When Should I See a Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
Recruiting the help of a worker’s compensation attorney may be beneficial at any stage of your claim. If you have been injured at work and are worried about being fired, an attorney can help you learn what to expect and what options you have. Your attorney may also be helpful when it is time to file your claim or when you need to initiate a dispute for a denied claim.
At the Rundlett Law Firm, PLLC, our attorneys have a thorough understanding of the workers’ compensation system in Mississippi and the laws that govern it. They also know it may sometimes be overwhelming and confusing for an injured worker to know what steps to take to obtain compensation without jeopardizing their employment status.
If you are worried about filing a claim, have questions, or don’t know where to start, reach out to our Biloxi office and request an initial consultation. We will take the time to listen to your case and offer the best guidance possible. We can also help you with paperwork and offer services and advice if your claim was denied or if the benefits you received are inadequate due to an error by the insurance company. We can also help you prepare for your hearing and present your case in a compelling manner to maximize your chances of a positive outcome. There is no need to face it all alone – let us help you receive fair compensation for your work injury or illness. Contact us at 228-338-1515 to learn more.