Workers’ Compensation Explainer: What It Is and How to Get the Benefits You Deserve
Suffering a work injury is a scary, nerve-wracking experience. How long will I be out of work? How will I pay my medical bills? Who’s responsible for my accident? – All these questions cause anxiety. Left alone, a work injury can lead to emotional, physical, and financial catastrophe.
But according to Attorney Lawrence Morizio, a work-related injury doesn’t have to lead you down this harrowing path.
“Connecticut workers’ compensation covers all employees in the state, whether full-time or part-time, from the first day of employment,” Attorney Morizio says. As one of fewer than 50 Board-Certified Workers’ Compensation Specialists in Connecticut, Morizio is an expert on Workers’ Compensation and has spent the last fifteen years helping hundreds of workers who were injured or became ill on the job get the benefits to which they’re entitled under CT law. “Workers’ compensation pays for medical care as well as wage replacement and other benefits. It’s the exclusive remedy for a work-related injury or illness.”
Workers’ Compensation in Connecticut operates differently than in other states, so it’s important to know how it works and how best to make sure you get the benefits you deserve, especially now with the resurgence of the pandemic and the CT’s proposed workers’ compensation expansion bill HB-6478.
First, Connecticut is a no-fault state, meaning, as an employee, you don’t need to prove negligence on the part of an employer, or prove that you weren’t to blame, to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits after a workplace injury. The flip side is that you can’t sue your employer, even if in fact it was negligence on their part that caused the accident.
So, if you can’t sue, why do you need a lawyer? It’s a common question and one based on a misunderstanding of both who pays workers’ compensation benefits in the state of Connecticut and how unique and nuanced the Connecticut system truly is. Much of Connecticut’s workers’ compensation law rests on statutes dating back to just after the industrial revolution. Due to its complex and historic nature, workers’ compensation lawyers have the ability to “specialize” in this area of law, including an expert knowledge of the 1913 Workers’ Compensation Act. State qualifications to specialize are extensive, which explains why there are approximately fewer than 50 qualified workers’ compensation lawyers practicing in Connecticut.
Furthermore, unlike Unemployment Insurance – which is typically reserved for individuals who’ve been terminated from employment irrespective of whether they were injured on the job and paid for by the state – workers’ compensation benefits are paid through your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. And when insurance companies are involved, the process is difficult to navigate.
“Securing benefits can be an uphill battle,” admits Attorney Morizio, “with employers and their insurers typically trying to delay or deny your claim, or terminate your benefits as soon as possible, even before you’ve fully recovered.”
Herein lies the key to unlocking the workers’ compensation system: retain someone who specializes in the system. A workers’ compensation lawyer can help you navigate the system’s complexities while providing the persuasive advocacy you need to make sure your benefits are paid appropriately – on time and in full. And despite what many think, hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer does not decrease your chances of maximizing benefits and ensuring the right to medical treatment.
“Even after an injury, maintaining a solid relationship with the employer is important,” says Attorney Morizio. “However, consulting early positively impacts the status of one’s claim — prompt access to hearings and the carrier.
Delay on your part can have tough consequences, both for your future health and your current financial situation. Post-injury is a time when you should be focusing on rehabilitation, not worrying about whether your benefits will be paid, thereby stalling your care. A workers’ compensation lawyer’s sole mission is to help you get the benefits and treatment in a prompt and timely fashion. The quicker you retain a workers’ compensation lawyer, the better the chance that the claim will move forward quickly.
Besides navigating the bureaucracy of the workers’ compensation system, employees seeking compensation benefits after an injury must confront another challenge: employers and insurance companies presenting further obstacles in an attempt to delay or deny your claim. Many employers will contest whether an injury occurred within the scope of the employment –for example, not on the premises or not during work hours. Other times, the employer will say that the employee did not properly notify the supervisor promptly or at all. Because every employer in the state of Connecticut is required to obtain workers’ compensation insurance coverage, it is the employer’s right to deny a claim. However, once the injured employee or “claimant” has established their burden, the employer must defend or accept the claim. Therefore, it’s critical for an injured worker to notify his employer immediately of the circumstances regarding a work injury.
“Notice of injury is one of the most important factors for an employee to avoid delay in the process, especially when treatment is necessary and benefits are owed for lost time from the job,” Attorney Morizio explains. “The injured worker must also provide proof that the need for treatment is related to the work injury, as opposed to a prior injury or condition.”
Without the appropriate documentation, the insurance carrier typically will contest the need for treatment. Working with your physician to provide and obtain this proof is another important aspect while pursuing your workers’ compensation claim. Regardless of the employer’s response, you are entitled to pursue any contested aspect of your claim before an Administrative Law Judge at the relevant Workers’ Compensation Commission District office. A workers’ compensation lawyer can be crucial in guiding you through this process.
Having your claim denied at the beginning of the process can be discouraging, but it’s not uncommon. Hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer like the attorneys at the Morizio Law Firm can make a world of difference.
“The workers’ compensation system can be difficult to navigate,” says Attorney Morizio. “This is a challenging time for someone who is unfamiliar with the process to be concerned about getting the treatment they need to recover or receiving benefits while out of work. Ultimately, injured workers are best served pursuing their claims promptly following an injury in order to ensure entitlement to benefits and medical treatment and should not hesitate to consult with an attorney to address how the process works and the merits of their case.”
If you’ve been injured at work, acting swiftly is in your best interest. Contact the Morizio Law Firm by visiting www.moriziolawfirm.com today.