Free Legal Consultation
Unfortunately, Rhode Island workers in any job or industry face the risk of being injured on the job. If you or a loved one has been hurt or killed at work, you need to know that there are benefits available to you under Rhode Island workers’ compensation laws.
The experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Gemma Law Associates, Inc., can help you to understand your rights, make a claim for benefits and take action if your benefits are denied. Call us today toll-free or contact us online to schedule a free review of your case.
5 Steps to Take After a Workplace Injury
When Are You Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Workers’ compensation benefits are meant to ensure that all workers are taken care of if they are hurt on the job. So, if you suffer any kind of injury as a direct result of doing your job, you should be eligible for monetary compensation.
You aren’t limited to getting workers’ compensation benefits only if you got hurt at your normal worksite. If you were off running an errand for your boss and got hurt while doing it, you can still collect benefits.
Also, you don’t have to prove that your employer did anything wrong. It doesn’t matter if you made mistakes as long as you weren’t intoxicated or violating company policies.
Finally, workers’ compensation benefits are not limited to situations where you get into an accident and suffer a sudden injury. In fact, you can obtain workers’ compensation benefits in a variety of situations, including when:
- You get into a car accident when driving as part of your job
- You develop a repetitive stress injury, such as carpal tunnel syndrome or herniated discs, due to performing the same work over-and-over again
- You develop an overexertion injury from twisting, turning, bending, pulling or lifting too much at work.
- You develop an illness as a result of being exposed to toxins in the workplace, such as mesothelioma from asbestos exposure.
The laws are very broad for a reason: The goal is to ensure that all workers have their costs covered by an insurance policy their employers must purchase to protect them.
Unfortunately, workers’ compensation insurers – and employers – sometimes refuse to pay claims when someone gets hurt.
Insurers and employers may deny your claim even though you have a legitimate work injury. They may try to force you back to work before you are ready to go. They may also refuse to pay your medical bills or engage in wrongful and dishonest tactics.
You should never have to put up with this. The law is on your side.
Rhode Island Workers Compensation FAQs
Workplace injuries that arise out of and in the course and scope of employment are typically covered. Some exceptions apply. For instance, benefits may be denied if the injured worker’s intoxication caused the injury. A covered injury can be produced by a specific incident (such as falling) or by the constant or repetitive stresses of the job (i.e., carpal tunnel). Stress-related problems and occupational illnesses that were caused by the nature of the job may also be covered.
It is often said that an employer takes its employees as it finds them. Thus, pre-existing conditions that are not work-related but are aggravated by an on-the-job injury may be covered.
Most employers are subject to workers’ compensation laws and are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance to cover employees. Employments that are exempt from this requirement may include agricultural workers, casual workers and at-home workers. Benefits are typically paid by an insurance company, but some employers are allowed to be self-insured for workers’ compensation.
An injured worker is entitled to weekly compensation for lost wages, medical expenses, loss of use of a body part, and vocational rehabilitation. Vocational rehabilitation can include job placement assistance, on-the-job training and schooling.
The weekly compensation rate is based on the injured worker’s average weekly wage. This is the average of gross earnings from all jobs worked before the injury, including income from self-employment. The average weekly wage is then converted into a spendable base wage, which is calculated by the state and roughly represents take home pay. The weekly compensation rate is 75% of the injured worker’s spendable base wage, up to a maximum that is set by the state for the year that the injury occurs. As of September 1, 2007, the maximum weekly compensation rate was $882.00.
Total disability benefits are paid when the employee is physically unable to earn any wages in any job. The weekly compensation rate for total incapacity is equal to 75% of the employee’s spendable base wage. Supplemental earnings and bonuses are considered in determining the compensation rate.
Partial disability benefits are paid if the employee is not able to earn full wages but at the same time is not totally disabled. When the employee reaches maximum medical improvement, his or her compensation rate may be reduced.
Weekly dependency allowance benefits of $15 per dependent are paid for total disability, while $40 per dependent per week is paid for fatality benefits. No dependency allowance is paid for partial disability.
Total disability benefits continue for as long as the injured worker is totally disabled, even if that is for a lifetime. Partial disability benefits can last for up to six years. At that time, the injured worker must prove to a court that the injury poses a material hindrance to his or her ability to get a job suitable to his or her limitations. If that is shown, the benefits will continue as if the injured worker were totally disabled.
A light duty job offered by an employer that an injured worker is physically capable of doing is known as suitable alternative employment. If the job is accepted, the injured worker receives weekly workers’ compensation benefits that are the difference between the average weekly wage from his or her regular job and the weekly earnings in the suitable alternative employment job. Refusing the job may cause the insurance company to petition the court for an order lowering the weekly benefit to what it would have been if the job had been accepted. If a job is not specifically referred to as suitable alternative employment, it may be turned down without affecting benefits.
Pain and suffering is not an available benefit for employees under the workers’ compensation system, in contrast to negligence claims. This means that an employer cannot be sued by an employee for pain and suffering for a work-related injury even if the injury was caused by the negligence of the employer or a co-worker.
An injured worker has the right to make a third-party claim against anyone other than the employer. Common examples include the driver of a vehicle that caused an accident, other contractors on a construction site, manufacturers of defective machinery, premise owners where a defective condition caused an injury, and maintenance companies that failed to keep an area safe.
Workers’ compensation cases can be difficult for injured workers, especially as time passes and the interests of the injured worker and the insurance company start to diverge. The majority of injured workers do not know the intricacies of the law. Insurance companies, on the other hand, are very familiar with the workers’ compensation system. An attorney can educate you about your legal rights and obligations as well as those of the insurance company. Most attorneys do not charge a fee unless you recover compensation for your injuries, so it is usually a good idea to have legal representation.
Do You Need a Rhode Island Workers Compensation Lawyer?
When you make a workers’ compensation claim, you deserve to have your claim approved quickly and to have your full medical bills and costs paid. You also deserve to have all of your covered workers’ compensation benefits paid out in full.
Unfortunately, things don’t always happen this way. Employers and workers’ compensation insurers use a lot of dishonest tactics, including:
- Creating a culture where reporting your injury is discouraged.
- Denying legitimate claims.
- Trying to convince you to just go through your health insurance or make a claim against a third party.
Insurance companies and employers have a team of experts and an arsenal of information. They are working to pay you less than what you deserve. You need a lawyer to help you understand your rights, make smart choices and get full benefits.
For example, at Gemma Law, our experienced work accident attorneys can handle all of the important issues in your work injury case for you. We can
- Explain all of your options – If your employer is trying to convince you to sue a third party or use your health insurance for coverage, we can explain the pros and cons. For example, suing a third party would require you to prove negligence and would require that the defendant have assets or insurance so you’d get paid. Your health insurance, on the other hand, has a co-pay plan and covers way less than workers’ compensation benefits. You need to understand your rights so you can protect them and get what you deserve.
- Take care of making your work injury claim – The process of making a workers’ compensation claim should be simple, but employers and insurers sometimes illegally create barriers. When you have an attorney on your side, most employers and insurers will know they can’t go out of their way to make things hard for you since you have a lawyer who knows the law. Your attorney will also fight to make sure you meet deadlines, prove your right to benefits and get the benefits you are entitled to.
- Resolve disputes over benefits – Employers may try to lowball you and not count all of your wages when determining what types of disability benefits you are entitled to receive. In other cases, you may find yourself in a dispute over whether medical bills should be paid for a legitimate treatment or procedure. Your lawyer will tackle all of these tense disputes for you so you can focus on your recovery.
- Appeal benefits denials – There are multiple levels of appeal that you can pursue if any of your benefits are denied. Working through the workers’ compensation system can be complicated. You need a guide who knows the law and can represent your interests against insurance companies and big corporations who care about their profits and not about paying what they owe to the injured.
These are just a few of the many ways that our attorneys can help. We have more than 40 years of experience representing clients who were hurt at work and who need a legal professional to stand up and make sure that the protections of the law actually work.
Allow Our Rhode Island Workers’ Compensation Lawyers to Help You
There is a lot at stake when it comes to making a workers’ compensation claim. A successful claim can entitle you to:
- Payment of 100 percent of your medical costs – You may even be compensated for the cost of transportation to see a doctor or specialist.
- Payment of missed income – Once an injury causes you to miss at least three consecutive days of work, you can begin receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
- Payment of partial disability benefits – These benefits may be paid either permanently or for a limited period until you recover. Temporary benefits are paid when your injury affects your ability to work and causes you to take a light-duty or lower-paying job. While you will still be expected to work as much as you can with your impairment, the benefits you receive will cover a portion of the difference in your pre-injury and post-injury income.
- Payment of total disability benefits – Like partial disability benefits, these can be paid temporarily or permanently. Total disability benefits are paid when you cannot work at all due to your workplace injury.
- Death benefits – If your family member dies as a result of a work injury, you may be entitled to receive ongoing weekly benefits for the loss of income.
At Gemma Law, we understand that getting these benefits can mean the difference between receiving medical treatment and being able to support yourself or not. We know just how important your case is.
We are very familiar with the Rhode Island workers’ compensation system. When we take your case, we will use our knowledge and experience to provide you with top-notch professional legal representation.
When you place your trust in our workers’ compensation lawyers to handle your claim, we will earn that trust and do everything possible to ensure that you are provided with all of the benefits that Rhode Island law allows. Give us a call or contact us online today to schedule a free consultation and learn how we can help with your work injury claim.