On-the-job injury is often difficult territory to navigate. When you are hurt at work, you have certain rights and protections under the law. No matter the severity of your injury, you may be entitled to a variety of benefits.
The First Steps After Being Injured
Workers compensation laws in South Dakota mandate that workplace injuries are covered under workers compensation insurance. If you’re injured on the job the first thing you want to do is seek medical attention. Your diagnosis by a medical professional and treatment is essential to getting better and back to work and important evidence when it comes time to submit your workers compensation claim.
In South Dakota, you should report the injury, in writing, to your workplace within three days, if possible at all possible. If you need urgent care, you may submit the report as early as you are able. You are not required to report the injury in the midst of a medical emergency. Your employer has the right to request an independent medical evaluation. So, it is helpful to report the injury before seeking treatment.
Under South Dakota Law, you’re allowed to pick your main doctor, who can refer you to specialists for additional treatment if need be. It is important to note that you only get to pick your first doctor, although you can discuss specialists with this doctor. If you disagree with your doctor, or something else happens, you’ll have to go to a doctor of your employer’s choosing or get your employer’s express permission to see another doctor. If your employer chooses a practitioner for you, they must inform you before you intend to seek medical treatment. They also must advise you of their choice as soon as possible.
I Have Received a Diagnosis, What Next?
You were at work doing some heavy lifting, and have sustained a back injury. Doctors tell you that you cannot work for the foreseeable future. So, what does workers compensation cover, and how will it help?
First of all, your medical expenses should be compensated. This covers emergency room and doctor visits, treatment and medications prescribed, and even rehabilitation costs. What if your injury keeps you from working for over a week? A month? You can expect to recover a portion of your wage loss. You will not be left without income, even if you cannot work.
Now, imagine your doctor tells you your back injury is permanent. This is where Permanent Partial Disability comes in.
What Exactly is Permanent Partial Disability?
When your injury permanently prevents you from resuming your old job, you become eligible for Permanent Partial Disability. You are not classified as incapacitated entirely, but you cannot return to your normal work. If a doctor determines the injury is permanent, then you will be unable to resume your normal work at your normal capacity, but capable of doing some work. In short – you are permanently disabled, but not totally disabled.
Hearing or vision loss, as well as back, head, limb, and internal organ injuries, can all lead to permanent disability. Permanent Partial Disability payments are determined by several factors. These can include the severity of your injury, the inability to resume your prior job or similar job, and the loss of projected wages. How you were injured, and what you would have earned had you not been injured, are taken into account. Permanent Partial Disability payments are weekly payments.
What Counts as an Injury?
It is easy to think that an injury only counts if you leave the hospital with a cast or stitches. But the truth is, a lot of health issues fall into the category of work injuries.
Workers at a manufacturer sometimes develop breathing issues as a result of working around toxic fumes. Of course, these issues can prevent them from being exposed continuously to those fumes or even performing other duties. Therefore, they could be eligible for Permanent Partial Disability.
Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) is another way you can be injured at work. If you develop a condition as a result of repetitive strains, you may be advised by a doctor to cease the activities that caused it. If the RSI is not expected to heal, you could claim Permanent Partial Disability.
To receive benefits, it is helpful to have a legal professional trace the source of your injury back to your job. The experts at Turbak Law remind us that large corporations have made the road to benefits tricky to navigate. There are strict requirements and timelines to follow to receive the compensation you are owed. If you are concerned about handling the process alone, speaking with a South Dakota workers compensation lawyer is often a good place to start.
When Your Benefits Are Not Satisfactory
It is an unfortunate truth that some insurance companies try to minimize their responsibility. Sometimes, the benefits granted are not enough, or do not line up with the level of damage inflicted by the injury.
This is what is known in the legal world as “insurance bad faith.” For example, you are in the middle of the claims process, and you have done all the correct paperwork. Then, the insurer requests an independent medical evaluation, and the result contradicts your original diagnosis. Now, the insurance company can claim the injury was not as severe or debilitating as previously thought. Workers compensation claims can be denied or your benefits reduced on this basis. You might also receive a smaller settlement than you are entitled to.
Although the South Dakota Supreme Court ruled this strategy is one indication of bad faith, it does not always stop insurance companies from trying this tactic. South Dakota workers compensation lawyers can assist you if you believe the insurance company acted unreasonably or in bad faith.
Even if the insurance company’s behavior doesn’t rise to the level of “bad faith,” if their behavior was “unreasonable” or “vexatious” in withholding benefits, they may be responsible for attorney’s fees and costs related to getting your wrongly withheld benefits.
Remember Your Rights
If your job-related injury prevents you from sustaining your usual work, you can qualify for Permanent Partial Disability. Other circumstances can entitle you to other workers compensation, regardless of whether your disability is permanent. You are entitled to the wages lost as a result of the disability, medical expenses, and even a portion of your legal costs. Knowing is half the battle when it comes to claiming benefits.
We can help. Contact one of our specialists today and discuss your situation further.