PITTSBURGH, Oct. 6, 2020 /PRNewswire/ -- When an employee gets hurt at work, they should be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. However, filing a workers' comp claim is a complex and confusing process, and many claimants have a difficult time dealing with it on their own. Attorney Fred Soilis of Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman in Pittsburgh recently shared some insights on factors that injured workers should consider when hiring a workers' compensation lawyer:
Question: What are some of the reasons that an injured worker would need a workers' compensation lawyer?
Fred: One of the main reasons is because of the complexity that is typically involved with these types of claims. Without the experience and familiarity navigating workers' comp claims, you could be putting yourself in some peril because you don't know what the other side is going to do. There are also certain time parameters that must be met and consequences for not meeting them. A lot of claims end up in limbo if things are not handled correctly, and that is the last thing that any injured worker wants to have happen.
Here is an example of what I'm talking about. When you suffer a workplace injury, you need to make sure the injury is accurately described, the right body parts are listed, etc. and oftentimes, employers and insurers don't want to accept an aggravation theory (i.e., pre-existing condition becoming aggravated), because these types of injuries are more serious. They prefer to describe an injury more generically. A misclassified claim could mean not getting the right amount of compensation, not getting benefits for the correct length of time, and similar problems.
Whatever the situation, it never hurts to at least consult with a lawyer, so you are informed of your legal rights. A conversation with a lawyer will help you understand where things could go with your claim, what steps will be necessary for it to be processed correctly, and other important details.
Question: What if a claim has already been denied? Is it too late at that point for an injured worker to get benefits?
Fred: No, not at all. A denial simply means that the employer and insurance company chose to deny the claim for one or more of a variety of reasons. Some reasons (for denial) are legitimate, but a lot of them are not. If a worker has had a claim denied, it is not too late, but they will almost certainly need a lawyer at this point to get benefits.
Question: What questions should an injured worker ask a workers' comp attorney that they are considering hiring?
Fred: You will want to check out what kind of website they have and what kind of content they have that will back up what the lawyer is going to tell them in terms of their experience and the frequency of the work they do. There are some lawyers that dabble in workers' compensation, but you want an experienced lawyer who does these claims day in and day out, so they thoroughly understand what will be involved.
It is also important that the attorney has a good working relationship with the client. You should feel comfortable with the attorney you are working with, and you should be able to trust your attorney to successfully handle your claim and to communicate frequently with you throughout the process.
It is important that an attorney has experience not only handling these types of claims, but also claims with that particular employer and insurance company. This means they will have an in-depth understanding of how the process works and be able to effectively communicate that process to the injured worker. An injured worker needs to know when they are going to get benefits, and they need a lawyer that will be able to move the process along and keep them fully informed throughout.
Question: Under what circumstances (if any) would it be possible to sue an employer for a workplace injury in Pennsylvania?
Fred: Pennsylvania is a no-fault state, and by that I mean that the conduct of an injured worker (absent certain circumstances) can't be used against them to deny workers' compensation benefits. So, for example, if an injured worker tore their ACL because they tripped over a cord that was lying on the ground, the employer cannot use fault as a basis to deny the claim. As long as the worker is performing their job duties within their scope of employment, that's the critical factor. In exchange for the no-fault system, an employee cannot sue their employer for damages such as pain-and-suffering or damages to a spouse (as a result of the injury) like in a personal injury action.
Question: What about third-party negligence? Is it possible to sue an outside party if they were responsible for a workplace injury or death?
Fred: Yes. If a third party causes a workplace injury, the injured worker could sue that party for damages. This could be the manufacturer of a defective product, for example, a subcontractor that failed to cover a hole that an employee falls into, the driver of a vehicle that collides with and injures an employee, or a number of other scenarios.
Question: What other advice would you give an injured worker who is looking to pursue a workers' comp claim?
Fred: The biggest piece of advice that I would give is that whoever they are consulting adequately explains the process and is candid about everything - whether it affects their case positively or negatively. It doesn't do anybody any good to just tell the worker what they want to hear, because you don't want to paint a rosy picture that doesn't exist.
An injured employee needs to be ready to address whatever issues their employer is going to bring up - whether that be a pre-existing injury, prior medical treatments to the same body part, or whatever the case may be. It is very important that the injured worker understands all of the issues that may impact their claim, so they can be fully prepared to address them.
About Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman
Caroselli Beachler & Coleman, LLC is an award-winning Pittsburgh-based personal injury law firm that has successfully represented countless injury victims in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and throughout the United States. They have served the local communities in this area for nearly five decades, and they have established a strong reputation as a results-oriented firm that works tirelessly to recover maximum compensation on behalf of their clients. Their office can be reached by calling 412-567-1232 or toll-free at 866-466-5789.
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