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Work Injury FAQs
If you are hurt on the job in Rhode Island, you need to learn about your right to collect workers’ compensation benefits. To help you understand those rights, Gemma Law Associates, Inc., has provided answers to frequently asked questions. We encourage you to read them.
Of course, the following FAQs cover general information. Every case is different. To discuss the specific facts and issues in your case, please call us today toll-free or submit our online form. You can speak directly with a lawyer in a free and confidential consultation.
- What types of injuries are covered by workers’ compensation?
- What about non-work related medical conditions that got worse because of a work injury?
- Who pays workers’ compensation benefits?
- What benefits are available under workers’ compensation?
- Are there different types of weekly compensation for lost wages?
- How is the weekly compensation rate calculated?
- How long do workers’ compensation benefits last?
- What is “suitable alternative employment”?
- Can pain and suffering be collected under workers’ compensation?
- Can a negligence claim be filed in addition to a workers’ compensation claim?
- Do I need a workers’ compensation attorney?
What types of injuries are covered by workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation covers injuries and illnesses that are caused by the duties of your job. For example, a roofer who falls from a ladder is covered by Rhode Island’s workers’ compensation because his job required him to climb a ladder. An office worker who develops carpal tunnel syndrome would be covered, too, if the constant or repetitive stress of job duties like typing or using a calculator caused the injury. On the other hand, benefits may be denied if an injured worker’s intoxication or horseplay caused the accident that resulted in an injury.
What about non-work-related medical conditions that got worse because of a work injury?
These conditions would be covered, too. A workers’ compensation benefits applicant would need to show that the job-related injury or exposure aggravated the pre-existing condition. For instance, a worker with a pre-existing lung condition would need to show the condition worsened due to breathing certain toxic substances on the job.
Who pays workers’ compensation benefits?
Workers’ compensation is an insurance program administered by the State of Rhode Island. Most employers are required to buy and maintain workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees. The insurance company typically pays benefits. Some employers are allowed to be self-insured for workers’ compensation.
What benefits are available under workers’ compensation?
An injured worker is entitled to weekly compensation for lost wages, reimbursement for medical expenses, a set payment for loss of the use of a body part and reimbursement for vocational rehabilitation expenses. Vocational rehabilitation can include job placement assistance, on-the-job training and schooling.
Are there different types of weekly compensation for lost wages?
An employee who physically cannot earn any wages in any job can collect weekly total disability benefits. An employee who is not able to earn full wages because of his or her injury but who is not totally disabled can collect partial disability benefits. When the employee reaches maximum medical improvement, his or her weekly compensation may be reduced. Weekly payments for dependents are $15 per dependent for total disability recipients, and $40 per dependent per week for fatality benefits. No dependency allowance is paid for partial disability.
How is the weekly compensation rate calculated?
The weekly workers’ compensation payment is based on the injured worker’s average weekly wages. This is the average of gross earnings from all jobs worked before the injury. This includes income from self-employment. The average weekly wage is then converted into a “spendable base wage,” which represents one’s take-home pay. The weekly compensation rate is 75 percent of the injured worker’s spendable base wage – up to a maximum rate set by the state each year. For 2012, Rhode Island’s maximum weekly compensation rate was $995. Dependents’ payments, on the other hand, are established by law.
How long do workers’ compensation benefits last?
Total disability benefits continue for as long as the injured worker is totally disabled – even if that is for his or her 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.
What is “suitable alternative employment”?
An employer can offer an injured employee a “light duty” job as a way of putting the employee back to work and reducing their workers’ compensation payments. This is known as “suitable alternative employment.” The job must be one that the employee can perform despite his or her injuries. The worker will receive weekly benefits. The amount will equal the difference between what the suitable alternative employment pays and the average weekly wage from his or her regular job. Refusing suitable alternative employment may cause the insurance company to petition the court to reduce the employee’s weekly benefit to what it would have been if the job had been accepted. If a job is not specifically called “suitable alternative employment,” it may be turned down without affecting a worker’s benefits.
Can pain and suffering be collected under workers’ compensation?
No, the workers’ compensation system does not pay a “pain and suffering” benefit. A worker cannot sue an employer for pain and suffering caused by a work-related injury even if the injury is the result of the employer’s negligence or a co-worker’s negligence.
Can a negligence claim be filed in addition to a workers’ compensation claim?
An injured worker who is collecting (or has filed for) workers’ compensation still has the right to make a third-party claim against anyone other than the employer who may have contributed to his or her injury. Common examples of third-party negligence claims include suing the driver of a vehicle who caused an accident, negligent contractors on a construction site, manufacturers of defective machinery, property owners where a dangerous condition contributed to an injury and maintenance companies that failed to keep an area safe.
Do I need a workers’ compensation attorney?
At Gemma Law Associates, Inc., we believe it is crucial to work with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer.
Applying for and receiving appropriate workers’ compensation benefits can be difficult for injured workers. The majority of injured workers are unfamiliar with the intricacies of workers’ compensation law. Insurance companies, on the other hand, are very familiar with the workers’ compensation system. As for-profit companies, they use their knowledge to ensure they pay out as little as possible for workers’ compensation claims.
An attorney can educate you about your legal rights and obligations, as well as those of the insurance company. An attorney can also help you compile your benefits application and/or represent you in an appeal of a denied claim or in appropriate settlement.
The Rhode Island workers’ compensation attorneys of Gemma Law Associates, like most attorneys, do not charge a fee unless they help you recover compensation for your injuries. This incentive, plus their knowledge and experience, make it a good idea to obtain legal assistance with a workers’ compensation claim.