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indiana workers compensation

Doctor Claims Injury is Not Work-Related, What Now?

QuestionWhat if I reported my injury and there is no written report made? I was sent to a doctor who would not even look at my hand because he said it was not due to some immediate accident or trauma. He said that the Indiana Workers’ Compensation law does not cover any injury that is gradual over time due to repetitive motion unless you are a secretary and typing. He told me it was not work related because of this and did not examine the hand. I have requested a second opinion. I also asked for a copy of the injury report and was told there isn’t one. The plant manager is out of town and is doing it over the phone.

Answer: The doctor told you wrong. I would be interested in knowing who your employer is and who the doctor is. Sometimes the doctor works very closely with the employer and their opinions are influenced by the employer.

You absolutely can have a condition that is a result of repetitive use or trauma. I suspect you are talking about carpel tunnel syndrome which is a very common condition in many professions, not just typists. For instance, truck drivers and factory line workers often develop carpel tunnel syndrome as a result of their employment. There can also be issues related to a condition called trigger finger or trigger thumb that can be work related and results from employment activities.

In Indiana, employers must pay the compensation and benefits provided under the Workers’ Compensation Act when the following four elements of a worker’s compensation claim are met. If the employer/carrier denies a worker’s compensation claim and the dispute is heard by the Board, the employee has the burden of proving each of the elements.

  1. personal injury or death;
  2. by accident;
  3. arising out of the employment; and
  4. in the course of employment.

“Injury” and “personal injury” mean only injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment and do not include a disease in any form except as it results from the injury.

“By accident” means that the injury was unexpected. To occur “by accident,” the injury may be either an “unexpected event” or an “unexpected result.” Under the “unexpected result” theory, the injury to the employee may be the combined injurious effect of repetitive motions.  The definition of “by accident” as both an unexpected event and an unexpected result means that a broad range of injuries is potentially compensable in Indiana.

As to your employer’s refusal or failure to report your injury. Ind. Code §22-3-4-13(a) requires that employers file the Employer’s Report of Injury with the Workers’ Compensation Board if an injury results in the death of an employee or in the employee’s absence from work for more than one (1) day. Failure to comply with reporting provisions may subject the employer/carrier to a $50 civil penalty to be collected by the Board. This report must be filed with the employer’s insurance carrier. Sometimes, employers try to avoid reporting work conditions because they want to avoid increases in their premiums for workers’ compensation insurance because of the reports of injuries or work conditions.

If you have found yourself in this situation, you probably want to utilize the help of a lawyer to fight for what you’re owed. Contact our office at 317.569.9644 today.

Have a question for us? Send an email to rklezmer@klezmermaudlin.com for help.

What is a deposition?

In many workers’ compensation cases, the insurance company’s attorney will want to talk to you, meet you, and take your statement.  If the statement takes place under oath in the presence of a court reporter, we refer to that as a deposition.

Depositions in workers’ compensation cases usually last 1 to 2 hours. The questions typically involve topics such as how you were injured, your prior medical history before the accident date, what jobs you have held in the past, and what benefits you are seeking.  The most important area of your deposition usually is your past medical history.  Being honest is key.  Be sure you do your best to remember any previous similar injuries.

For example, if you have a back injury, you will be asked about your previous history of back injuries.  If you deny such history and the insurance company finds out that you did have past back problems, that may be used against you in front of the judge.

Remember a deposition is nothing more than a question and answer session, under oath, in the presence of the employer’s attorney and your attorney, if you have hired one.

If you have questions regarding a work-related injury or personal injury accident, contact our office at (800) 809-3776 for a free initial consultation to discuss your claim. under oath

How long does it take to get a worker’s compensation hearing before a Judge?

 

Every case is different. Most workers’ compensation claims are settled without a hearing. The Workers’ Compensation Board of Indiana requires both parties to make attempts to settle their disputed issues on their own before bringing them in front of a Judge. Going through this process can take some time.

Hearings are scheduled in either the county where the injury occurred, the county where the employer is located, or a county nearby.

Does the Indiana Workers’ Compensation Act protect my job?

 

Workers Compensation Laws Indiana

Unfortunately, the Indiana Workers’ Compensation Act does not protect or secure an injured worker’s job after a work accident. The Act only bars an employer from firing an employee in retaliation against him or her for filing a workers’ compensation claim.

It is your right to pursue a claim under the Workers’ Compensation Act. However, injured workers sometimes find themselves getting written up or reprimanded for issues that would not have been a big deal in the past, once they do return to the job after a work accident. These issues may serve as a basis for the employer to fire the employee at a later time, or the employer may push the injured worker to feel like he or she should resign.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, you should consult with a qualified Indiana worker’s compensation attorney.

Workers’ Compensation & the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

 

If you have a condition that significantly reduces or limits your ability to work, you may be considered disabled according to the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and therefore protected by this federal law.

The ADA applies to any employer with 15 or more employees. The Act says that an employer cannot discriminate against workers with disabilities. This includes those who may be a candidate for a position as well as those who already hold a position, such as an injured worker who is left with a disability due to a work accident, but who wants to return to his or her place of employment.

An injured worker whose work abilities have been limited by a work accident will probably be evaluated by a doctor to find out how well he or she can perform the necessary duties of the job. If the worker’s condition limits him or her from performing job tasks that are not critical to the job, then the ADA would require these tasks be reassigned. In a similar manner, if the task that the worker is unable to do are critical to the job, then the ADA requires the employer to consider a reasonable accommodation that would help the worker to still complete this task. This might include special equipment or a device that relieves some of the physical nature of the worker’s job; however, the law does not clearly define this term.

Vocational Rehabilitation for Injured Workers

 

Vocational rehabilitation may be available to you as an injured worker if you are not able to return to the job you were doing before the work accident. However, the Workers’ Compensation Act does not require the employer to pay for this additional treatment. The Office of Vocational Rehabilitation [(317) 232-1319] can assist you with questions regarding this process.

Workers’ Compensation & the Jones Act

 

The Jones Act provides benefits to seamen who work on-board a vessel in navigation and who are injured on the job. A seaman is someone who spends a substantial amount of his or her time on-board the vessel. For example, riverboat casino employees may be treated as seamen under the Jones Act.  Riverboat casino employees who have been injured on the job and are unsure of their rights should contact an attorney familiar with workers’ compensation and with the Jones Act.

Questions surrounding the Jones Act and whether employees falling under this law are eligible to receive Indiana workers’ compensation benefits have surfaced more recently. Some attorneys believe that employees under the Jones Act are still eligible for workers’ compensation benefits in Indiana. If your employer tells you otherwise, you should consult with an attorney about YOUR RIGHTS to workers’ compensation benefits.

Social Security Disability & Workers’ Compensation

 

Sometimes, workers sustain a work injury that leaves them unable to return to their former job or a similar job. Since permanent total disability (PTD) benefits are not a guarantee for an injured worker who cannot return to his or her prior job or place of employment, these individuals might be forced to seek benefits elsewhere.

Consequently, social security disability (SSD) benefits may be pursued by the injured individual. This often leads to the question of whether SSD benefits will be reduced if the worker is also receiving TTD benefits from workers’ compensation. To determine if there will be a reduction in SSD benefits, a specific formula needs to be followed. Here is how you can determine whether your workers’ compensation benefits will affect drawing social security pay early due to a work-related disability:

  1. If the total of your combined monthly workers’ compensation and social security benefits (including what others in your household draw) exceeds 80% of your gross average earnings per month (average current earnings) prior to the disability, then your SSD benefits will be reduced so that you do not exceed this 80% level
    • Example: Donna draws $1,000 from SSD per month. Her husband draws $1,500 per month. Donna is also drawing $548 from workers’ compensation each month. Thus, benefits in this household total $3,048. Donna’s gross average earnings per month before she became disabled from a work accident was $3,500. Since 80% of $3,500 equals $2,800, the amount that Donna and her family draws from SSD will have to be reduced by $248 (the difference between $3,048 and $2,800) in order to meet the 80% requirement.
OR
 2. If your monthly social security disability pay alone is more than 80% of your gross average earnings per month prior to the disability, then your SSD benefits will be reduced so that the combination of drawing these events along with workers’ compensation benefits does not exceed the amount over 80% that you drew just through SSD income.
  • Example: Dennis draws $1,300 from SSD per month, while his son draws $300. In total, Dennis’ household receives $1,600 from SSD each month. This does not account for what Dennis earns from workers’ compensation. Dennis’ gross average earnings per month prior to the disability was $1,800. 80% of $1,800 equals $1,440. In this case, since the SSD benefits are more than the 80% requirement, the $1,600 will serve as the maximum standard of benefits level. Thus, the SSD benefits will be reduced so that the combination of this plus Dennis’ workers’ compensation benefits does not exceed $1,600.
On the other hand, workers’ compensation disability pay will not be part of the earnings that determine what you can get from social security disability when you do become eligible to draw it. In other words, if you had a work accident in 1992 and you received 11 weeks of temporary total disability pay that totaled $2,500, then the Social Security Administration will not recognize the $2,500 as part of your total earnings for 1992. This is because social security taxes are not taken out of workers’ compensation disability income.

Can my workers’ compensation pay be garnished by a collector?

Your workers’ compensation pay cannot be garnished by a collector or an attorney representing the interests of another party. However, once you return to work, even if you are still receiving medical treatment from the workers’ compensation doctor, your wages can be garnished.

Also, deductions cannot be taken out of your paycheck for workers’ compensation insurance. If this happens, the employee should contact the Employment Standards Division at (317) 232-2655.

Using Sick, Personal, and Vacation Days During Your Workers’ Compensation Claim

 

The employer cannot force an injured worker to use his or her vacation, personal, or sick days in place of receiving disability benefits in a workers’ compensation case.

Nonetheless, when an injured worker is not receiving workers’ compensation benefits because his or her claim has been denied, it may be necessary for him or her to use this approved time off in order to avoid violating the company’s policy for unexcused absences. Violating such might lead to the injured worker getting fired, and the Workers’ Compensation Act does not protect an injured worker from this happening.

The law also does not require employers to continue to offer vacation, personal, or sick days while the injured worker is off on total or partial disability. However, if you have a collective bargaining agreement, that agreement may require your employer to continue to offer these benefits.