If a person is injured on the job, the first thing they are supposed to do is to notify their supervisor immediately and fill out a first report of injury. The second thing is to get treatment and follow through with all of the healthcare provider’s recommendations. The person then needs to make sure that they attend all appointments and that they show up on time; failure to do so will be used against them by the employer or insurer and will reduce the value of their compensation case. This is what the law requires and what your employer expects of you.
This is NOT what I tell my clients, though. What I tell people is, if you get hurt at work, the first thing you should do is call a workers’ compensation lawyer. If you fall or hurt your back lifting or are in a car crash while working, before you get up you call your lawyer in the phone. How you explain the circumstances of the injury can – and often does – makes the difference between having a compensable claim versus having the your claim denied. It’s not enough to simply tell the truth, it’s knowing what little details are extremely important and must be included in your report of injury to make your injury compensable. This may sound ridiculous but it is absolutely vital.
In Maryland, there is no rule that says that a person has to seek treatment with a specific doctor or that they have to treat with the doctor an employer or insurer chooses for them. They can treat with anyone they want. The injured worker must file an Employee’s Claim Form with the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) within 2 years of the date of injury or the claim may be barred forever. HAVING A CLAIM WITH AN INSURANCE COMPANY IS NOT THE SAME AS FILING WITH THE WCC AND YOU HAVE NO PROTECTIONS UNLESS YOU FILE WITH THE WCC.
Due to the complexities that can come up after a workplace injury, a person should consider hiring a Maryland workers’ compensation lawyer right away. An experienced lawyer can provide a person with legal guidance throughout their claim, including the details of workers’ compensation and employment in Maryland.
In Maryland, employers are required to cover their employees via workers’ compensation insurance. That is not the case, though, with independent contractors.
Independent contractors can apply for those benefits independently, but an employer is not required to have this kind of benefit available for them. Unlike employees, independent contractors typically set their own hours, are not heavily supervised, and work whenever they want to and at their pleasure.
How do you know if you would be considered an independent contractor under MD’s WC law? The WCC is fairly liberal in determining whether a worker is a covered employee instead of a non-employee contractor. Just because the worker’s contract says he’s an independent contractor (IC) and both the employer and Social Security Administration consider him to be an IC and he is paid cash doesn’t mean the WCC won’t find him to be a covered employee. Several factors are considered and the most important is who controls the work. If you are hurt on the job and your boss says you aren’t covered because you’re an IC, contact a Maryland WC lawyer and get another opinion.
Determining a Case
In order to have a valid workers’ compensation claim in Maryland, a person’s injury must fit within the statutory definition, meaning that it has to be an accidental and unintentional injury. Moreover, workplace injury must arise out of the employment, meaning that the reason why the person is exposed to the risk is because he/she is on the job or because of the nature of the particular job. Lastly, the injury must occur within the scope of the person’s employment, in terms of the time, place, and manner of the injury.
Certain occupational diseases sustained within the scope of one’s employment, such as those involving asbestos, also fall within the ambit of workers’ compensation.
Moreover, a person must be an employee as defined by MD WC law and not an independent contractor. If they meet all of these requirements, there is a significant chance that their case will be covered under workers’ compensation and that they will be afforded coverage. If the Commission reaches a decision in their favor and they are entitled to benefits, the benefits are paid by the employer or insurer, not by the Commission.
Filing a Claim
A person or their attorney first needs to file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. The injured worker’s employer will not do this for them. Although claim forms can be obtained from the WCC and filed on paper, the vastly preferred way is to do it online via the WCC’s website.
On the claim form, they provide basic information about how the accident happened, their injuries, and some other basic information (e.g., address, phone, etc.). An attorney can be crucial in ensuring the form is completed correctly and the facts of the injury are properly detailed.
Importance of Following Medical Treatment
A person should follow through with their health care provider’s treatment recommendations, show up for each appointment, arrive on time, and do what they are supposed to do until they are finished treatment. An individual should also try to ensure that there are no significant gaps in treatment because the insurance company will pick up on this and it can have a negative impact on their case – especially with regard to obtaining an eventual award for the extent of the claimant’s permanent disability
If the person does not do these things, and the case goes before the Commission at some point, the attorney for the employer/insurer will cross-examine them and will bring up these deficiencies.
Also, the injured worker should be aware of their online presence, vis-à-vis postings on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and other social media websites. For example, if a person is claiming that they injured their right arm or leg and there are pictures of them on Facebook doing things like somersaults, jumping up and down, or running a marathon, that can definitely hinder their case. The attorney for the employer/insurer will then investigate, and, if necessary, raise this issue on cross-examination at a hearing before the Commission. This same rule applies not just to workers’ compensation cases, but also to standard personal injury cases.
Inability to Return to Work
There is a type of workers’ compensation benefit that is available in Maryland known as vocational rehabilitation services. It is open to people in Maryland who fit within the workers’ compensation definition and who cannot return to the job which they had before they were injured. It can consist of coordinating medical benefits, vocational assessments or evaluations, counseling, rehabilitation, vocational rehab training and also job placement services.