Most people have heard about Workers' Compensation benefits, but unless
a person has actually had to file and pursue a “work comp”
claim, few people have a full understanding of how the work comp “system” works.
The Concept of Workers' Compensation
It is hard to believe, but the concept of Workers’ Compensation insurance
coverage for an injured employee in the United States is barely 100 years
old. At its core, a Workers’ Compensation system is intended to
provide medical and wage loss benefits to a worker who is injured while
in the course and scope of his or her employment – regardless of fault.
Prior to the addition of Workers’ Compensation law into the American
legal justice system, civil trials stood as the only option in which employees
could recover compensation for injuries incurred while on the job. This
was a system that favored employers, making it difficult for employees
to recover benefits should they be found any way responsible for their
own injury, the employee was aware of the inherent danger of their employment,
or if a co-worker was contributed to the negligence that resulted in the accident.
By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, Montana was one of
4 states that had adopted Workers’ Compensation reform. The “grand
bargain” between industry and worker was simple – the employer,
in exchange for immunity from civil lawsuits, would agree to provide Workers’
Compensation coverage to its employers – medical and wage loss benefits
to be paid to an employee injured “in the course and scope of employment”
regardless of who caused the accident or injury.
Typically, an employer pays premiums for a work comp insurance policy which
is supposed to cover employees when they are injured on the job. In return,
the employer is immune from a civil suit by the employee even if the employer’s
negligent or reckless conduct caused the accident/injury. The work comp
system becomes the employee’s “exclusive remedy” for
the on the job injury, at least as it relates to the employer.
Who Qualifies for Workers' Compensation?
An “employee” is covered under an employer’s Workers'
Compensation insurance policy. The employee does not have to be on the
job for a specific amount of time to qualify. On the other hand, independent
contractors and people who are not considered “employees”
are generally not eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits.
Types of Qualifying Accidents / Injuries
Workers’ Compensation insurance covers a broad range of incidents
and accidents that can occur during the course of a person's employment.
In Montana, given our diverse workforce, we unfortunately see all kinds
of workplace accidents that cause injury.
We see all sorts of accidents and injuries in Montana given the physical
nature of the work in many of our industries – explosions in the
oilfield, falls and lifting injuries in the construction industry, respiratory
issues in the mining industry, injury caused by animals in the ranching
industry, and many car and truck accidents involving employees traveling
in the course and scope of their employment given the vast distance many
have to travel for their employment.
How to File a Workers' Comp Claim
The requirements for Workers’ Compensation eligibility differ depending
on whether you suffered an “injury” in a single traumatic
event or suffer from a job related condition, often called an “occupational
disease,” that developed over a period of time.
1. For an ” injury,” you must notify your employer that you
were injured on the job within 30 days of the injury. We recommend that
the notice be in writing and that you retain a copy of the notice. The
30 day notice requirement does not apply to an “occupational disease.”
2. For an “injury,” in addition to the 30 day notice to the
employer, you must also file a formal written claim for compensation within
1 year of the injury either with your employer, the employer’s workers’
compensation insurer, or the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.
3. For an “occupational disease,” you must file a formal written
claim for compensation within 1 year from the date you knew or should
have known the condition was work related.
The time limits may be waived in very limited situations. If you are concerned
about time limits, you should contact us.
What to Do if the Claim Gets Denied
If your work comp claim is denied, we invite you to contact us at Odegaard
Braukmann Law so that we can evaluate whether the denial is supported
by the circumstances of your injury, the medical evidence and rules and
regulations that apply.
How is My Attorney Paid?
Generally, the attorney receives a contingent fee. This means that no
fee is paid to the attorney unless his or her efforts are successful in
obtaining benefits for you. Most often the contingent fee is 20% of the
benefits obtained due to the efforts of the attorney. The percentage may
increase to 25% if the benefits are obtained as a result of court proceedings.
Our Montana workers’ compensation lawyers help people overcome their
denials so that they can get the benefits they deserve. We also handle
personal injury cases that occur because of the employer's neglect.
Injured persons can receive free case evaluations if they reach out to
our firm today and ask for assistance.