Today’s post comes from guest author Thomas Domer, from The Domer Law Firm.
In a new study by Insureon, less than 1 in 5 small businesses carry workers’ compensation. Although all State regulations require that small businesses have workers’ compensation, this study indicates that workers’ compensation is the least purchased insurance by small businesses. (In Wisconsin, employers must have workers’ compensation if they hire only one employee paying more than $500 in a quarter or hire any three employees at any one time.) The President of Insureon Jeff Somers said in an interview with workerscompensation.com that “small businesses often fail to carry workers’ compensation because they truly do not understand their insurance need; there is a major lack of awareness and education which insurers and brokers can alleviate. One reason for this protection gap is a misplaced anxiety around how much workers’ compensation coverage actually costs, but when you compare the small price. . . the protection workers’ compensation provides makes an investment worth it.”
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, almost 3 million workplace injuries were reported by private industry employers in 2016, with nearly one-third resulting in time away from work. The Insureon statistics showed that one in three businesses reported an incident that could have been covered by a workers’ compensation insurance policy and that one-fifth of all small businesses that filed for bankruptcy in 2016 did so because of lawsuits. Workers’ compensation protects an employer from a lawsuit. (In Wisconsin a worker injured by an uninsured employer has access to the Uninsured Employers Fund. After the Fund pays workers’ compensation benefits, the Fund then pursues reimbursement from the employer.)
This is the first installment of a series that will educate workers and their families about injury, disease and death resulting from work. The most basic question is: What is workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a legal system established in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., and for federal employees. Workers’ compensation laws began in the United States in 1912. The laws are different in each state, but the basics of the law are quite similar in all states.
If a worker is injured, contracts a disease or dies as a result of work activities, all of the medical and burial expenses are to be paid by the employer. The employer is also responsible to pay for lost wages, physical disability, and mental disability. Workers’ compensation does not pay for pain and suffering and is generally limited in duration of payments, although some states pay lifetime benefits.
The balance of this series will go through the basic steps of how to obtain workers’ compensation benefit. The goal is to inform, which helps victims of workplace injury, disease or death receive proper compensation.
I can honestly say that the last thing I expected when I applied for law school was that I would need the help of a science course to be a more effective attorney. After all, I was applying to law school, not medical school. However, as the newest attorney at Rehm, Bennett & Moore, I recently had the opportunity to attend an all-day seminar titled “Anatomy for Lawyers” with Prof. Samuel D. Hodge, Chairman of the Legal Studies Department at Temple University. Jennifer Ohmberger and Megan Nicholson, legal assistants with the firm, also participated in the seminar.
The seminar was an anatomy course designed to teach the knowledge and skills needed to efficiently and effectively handle workers’ compensation and personal-injury cases. So much of what we do in working with our clients’ workers’ compensation and personal-injury claims is attempting to understand injuries to the human body. Something as simple as understanding the difference between a sprain and a strain, which parts of the body are most susceptible to injury, or how a doctor interprets a diagnostic test can greatly affect the type of medical treatment a client receives, the ability to return to work, and ultimately, how much compensation they are entitled to.
This process typically requires review of medical records and a considerable amount of translation of medical jargon (which is, by the way, literally another language). Understanding what the medical records say in plain English and putting together the puzzle pieces of medical opinions can be half the battle in understanding our clients’ claims and obtaining compensation for them. The “Anatomy for Lawyers” seminar focused on the very specific challenges attorneys and clients face with injury claims and helped to make more practical sense of the complicated medical world.