If you have been injured on the job, you may be aware of workers’ compensation benefits, but you may be unsure exactly what they entitle you to, or how you go about collecting them. What if your claim for benefits is disputed or denied? Below are answers to some questions frequently encountered by Biloxi attorney Corban Gunn as he helps people throughout the Mississippi Gulf Coast region who have received on-the-job injuries through workplace accidents on offshore oil rigs, in the construction industry, and other occupations.
We hope this information is helpful to you. If you have other questions, or if you need assistance applying for workers’ compensation benefits or appealing a denial, call our office at 228.284.6805, or contact us online for a free consultation.
What do I do if I have been injured on the job?
You should report the injury to your employer as soon as possible, after first seeking any first aid or other emergency medical treatment you may need. Your employer is required to notify their insurance carrier and make a written injury report. You may want to bring a co-worker with you when you report the injury, and request a copy of the injury report for your records. If you do not hear from the insurance carrier within a couple of weeks, you can call the insurer directly to make sure a claim was filed. A phone number should be provided in the break room or elsewhere in the workplace, or you can contact the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission or an attorney for help.
It is a good idea to report any injury when it happens, even if it doesn’t appear serious at the time. Your symptoms may worsen and entitle you to workers’ compensation, and you want to be on record having filed notice of the injury within the required time frame.
What types of benefits can I receive?
Medical payments cover the cost of your medical expenses, including an amount for vocational rehabilitation if needed. In addition to medical benefits, you can receive wage loss or wage replacement benefits based on your disability. These benefit categories include:
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD) – two-thirds of your average weekly wage are paid when you are completely unable to work during the period of your disability
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) – if you can work, but at a diminished earning capacity, you can receive two-thirds of the difference between your pre-injury and post-injury wage
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD) – benefits are payable up to 450 weeks
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) – payment is according to your permanent physical impairment rating
Temporary benefits are paid until you return to work or reach Maximum Medical Improvement, which is as much a legal term as it is a medical one. Death benefits are also payable to a surviving spouse and children, including funeral expenses, a lump sum payment, and weekly benefits where applicable. The information above is general in nature. Talk to an experienced Mississippi workers’ compensation attorney for more precise answers about the type and amount of benefits you may qualify for.
How long do medical benefits last?
Medical benefits last for as long as you need them.
How soon can I start receiving benefits?
Your wage loss benefits should begin on the sixth day after the injury or illness. If your disability lasts longer than 13 days, then you will be able to receive benefits covering the first five days of disability as well.
Can I choose my own doctor?
Your employer will furnish a physician, and you have the right either to accept that doctor or to select another doctor of your own choosing. A treating physician can refer you to a specialist as needed. If your employer or their insurance carrier does not approve of your choice, you may need to go through a process with the workers’ compensation commission to change doctors.
What if my claim is denied?
There are many reasons your employer may have to deny or defend against your claim, including alleging that your injury is not work-related, that your injury is caused at least in part by a pre-existing condition, that the accident was caused due to your own intoxication or willful intent, or that you are an independent contractor and not an employee.
If your claim is initially denied, you may petition for a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ), and you have the right to be represented by an attorney at that hearing. You may also appeal the decision of the ALJ to a panel of the Workers’ Compensation Commission, and their decision may be further appealed to Circuit Court and then to the Mississippi Supreme Court, if necessary. When you have a valid claim that is not being properly considered, we put our litigations skills and experience to work for you for as long as it takes to make sure your rights are vindicated.
Employer denials must be made in good faith. The employer or insurance carrier may be liable for damages, including punitive damages, in a civil lawsuit for a bad faith denial of a claim.