An injury due to an accident or work-related incident can be an uncertain time in the lives of many Rhode Islanders. The first steps you take following an accident can determine your long-term path to recovery. Insurance companies and employers will consider their bottom line before they consider your immediate needs.
Workers' compensation benefits applies to injured hospital workers as it does to all work related injuries. Working in a hospital presents a high risk of injury for its workers. A study done in 2011 indicated that working in a hospital caused its workers to suffer injuries and illnesses resulting in days away from work higher than any other field or profession including construction, manufacturing, private industry and professional and business services.
A worker injured at the construction site has the right to collect workers' compensation benefits from his employer. In addition, if the injured worker is injured as a result of the negligence of someone other than his employer (a third party) the injured worker can also file a claim against or sue the third party for negligence including damages for pain and suffering and related damages. In construction site injuries third party claims give a lien to the workers' compensation insurer.
Construction site injuries allow the injured worker to collect workers' compensation from his or her employer and also the right to file a claim against any third party (anyone other than his employer) that causes the injuries. The employer would provide workers' compensation benefits which replaces wages when the injured worker is unable to work and pays the medical bills.
When a construction site worker is injured the worker can collect workers' compensation from his or her employer. This consists of wage replacement while disabled, payment of medical bills, scarring and loss of function benefits. It is important to understand that the injured construction worker cannot sue his or her employer for pain and suffering or other related damages as this right is given up in order to allow the injured worker to collect workers' compensation. Workers' compensation benefits are no fault meaning that the injured worker can collect workers' compensation regardless of whose fault the injury was as long as the injury happened in the course and in the scope of the employment.
If you are injured in a work incident in Rhode Island and the insurer or your employer denies your claim on the basis that you have a preexisting condition or injury, you may still be entitled to workers' compensation benefits. If a doctor deems that the incident aggravated a preexisting condition, you are entitled to compensation. This is especially important to those many people who have preexisting back pain and other ailments.
Every case is different but, in general, the best time to settle your Rhode Island Workers' Compensation case is when the case can't do anything more for you. To illustrate what I mean by that, I will use the example of a case that I recently settled. The employee was 24 years old when he injured his low back moving heavy equipment during the course of his employment as a laborer. Because of his young age he followed a conservative treatment plan and tried to avoid surgery for as long as possible, however he ended up having a low back fusion. The insurer paid for multiple MRIs, chiropractic treatment, pain management specialists, consultations with three different neurosurgeons, multiple rounds of physical therapy and ultimately the surgery.
In Rhode Island, the Pretrial Conference would be your first appearance at the Workers' Compensation Court. To get to a Pretrial Conference, one party (either the employee or the employer) must file a Petition. The Petition could be seeking to establish liability and get your weekly benefits started or it could be seeking approval for an MRI or surgery. Alternatively, it could be seeking a termination or reduction of your weekly check. If you are receiving workers' compensation benefits and you receive a Notice of Pretrial Conference summoning you to attend, you should call an attorney immediately, if you don't have one already. If you do have one, then you should call your attorney to make sure he or she received the Notice. That way you can be sure that your attorney will be there to represent you before the Judge.
If it is an emergency, get medical attention immediately. If it is not an emergency and you are able, tell someone from your job (preferably your supervisor) that you got hurt. In the cases of occupational injuries which develop over time and not in one specific incident, that might not be feasible because you will not know the exact moment in time that you got hurt. Instead, as soon as you know that you have an injury, tell your employer. Notice to your employer can be crucial in workers' compensation cases.
The answer to this question is the one that everyone hates to hear - "it depends." While you might want a more concrete answer so that you can wrap your head around this process and know what to expect, no two cases are alike. In fact, what determines how long your workers' compensation case will take is you or, more specifically, your body.