Suffering an injury in the workplace is a far-too-common experience shared by many Americans. Most of these injuries are minor; small cuts while working in the kitchen, contusions on the knees after a fall, that sort of thing. But some workplace injuries are serious enough to require medical attention and time off work.
When this happens, employees lose money because they are unable to work (plus medical bills are expensive). To help employees who have been harmed this way, we created the workers’ compensation program. This allows employees to seek financial compensation through their employers insurance. It is a vital tool that looks out for our workers in this country.
But many people don’t quite understand what they are looking at and signing when faced with workers’ comp paperwork. So we’re going to take some time to better understand what we’re asked to sign. We’ll start by looking at the important factors the paperwork lays out. Then we’ll discuss what we lose when we sign on the dotted line. Finally, we will consider what happens if you’re asked to resign as part of the settlement process.
What Important Factors are Dealt with in the Paperwork?
There are a lot of different forms for worker’s compensation. We could go into depth about every line of them but then we would be here all day explaining things that are already clearly labeled. Instead of boring you down with that, let’s focus our attention on some of the important factors that are covered in the paperwork.
As with any settlement agreement, it is vitally important that you carefully read through the agreement before signing. If you have difficulty with understanding then it is recommended that you work with an attorney that can explain anything you don’t understand in layman’s terms.
Several important factors will be laid out, such as:
- Whether or not compensation will be paid in installments or in a lump sum. If it’s a lump sum then you’ll see the full amount that will be. If it is in installments then it will lay out how much each installment is supposed to be, how often you will receive them, and how long they will last for.
- Settlements that are in a lump sum typically require the employee receiving the payment to handle their own medical bills from the lump sum going forward. However, some agreements may exchange a smaller total dollar amount for a guarantee that the insurance company will continue to fund certain medical costs.
- You may need to set aside money from your workers’ comp payment in order to be eligible for Medicare. This is especially important for those who are going to continue to need treatment for their injury. This is another point where working with an attorney can help you to ensure you keep this in mind.
- If you are working with an attorney then you will have signed paperwork with them earlier. While not part of the workers’ comp paperwork itself, your agreement with your attorney will likely include what percentage of the workers’ comp settlement will be paid to them.
What Do You Give Up By Signing Workers’ Comp Papers?
This is perhaps the most important thing to keep in mind when signing any workers’ comp paperwork. When you sign for workers’ comp, they are going to have you sign a release of claims form.
What this means is that you are releasing any claim you have over your employer for that accident. So say you accept the workers’ comp, sign the paperwork, but then later discover that your employer acted in a really shady way. You get the realization that your employer should have been liable for far more than you received. Only you can’t do anything about it now because of the release of claims form.
Similarly, let’s say that your injury proves to be worse than expected. Not only do you need to take more time off work but you also need further medical attention. Only now you’re going to have to deal with it out of pocket because that form also denies you the ability to seek further benefits for that particular injury.
It is important to note that while you give up the ability to seek further benefits from that injury, you do not give up the ability to seek compensation for future injuries. Say you go through all the steps to get workers’ comp for your injury but have recovered and returned to the workplace. Then in a year or two later, you suffer another injury due to negligent factors the employer should have addressed. You could be able to pursue further compensation because it is a different injury.
Can I Lose My Job Over a Workers’ Comp Claim?
Yes and no.
Your employer is not legally allowed to terminate your employment due to you seeking workers’ compensation. If an employer takes an action against you in this manner, they could be held liable and taken to court.
However, an employer is allowed to ask you if you would be willing to voluntarily resign. Keep in mind that even if this feels like it is a demand, it can’t be. It has to be a request and it is one that you can turn down.
When you resign in this manner, it is pretty typical that you’ll be asked to release any claims you had that relate to that business. Resignation in this manner will typically come with some kind of financial offer, paid for by the employer rather than the insurance company.
Should I Work with an Attorney?
While you don’t have to work with an attorney to get workers’ compensation, it is certainly recommended. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will help you negotiate and get the best deal possible out of the situation.
Often that means helping you to gather the type of evidence that proves the seriousness of your injury, the conditions that it occurred in, and any other relevant point that proves you aren’t just looking for a quick buck, you’re looking for the compensation that you deserve as the victim of a workplace injury.