Common Misunderstandings In Personal Injury And Workers' Compensation Claims

In today's Internet age, many injured individuals turn to web-based resources for information concerning their rights following a work accident or motor vehicle collision. Unfortunately, many people fail to source the information concerning personal injury and workers' compensation claims that is available on the web. Much of the information found online is inaccurate and misleading, which results in misconceptions about legal rights in the event of injury at work or due to another's negligence.

Some of these misconceptions about personal injury and workers' compensation claims discourage injured individuals from seeking legal representation. Unfortunately, unrepresented injured individuals often fall victim to a system they do not understand, which can lead to inadequate monetary recoveries in light of the traumatic injuries, expensive medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering and other damages sustained. This article discusses some of the most commonly held misconceptions regarding personal injury and workers' compensation claims. It is by no means exhaustive, but rather meant to be a helpful tool for folks who find themselves thrust into the claims process. All cases are different. Because the specific facts of your case may fall within an exception or requirement not discussed in his article, we recommend you contact our firm or other qualified attorneys for specific legal advice. Our office, and many other law offices in the area, will conduct a free initial consultation and answer your questions free of charge, without any pressure to retain the firm in your particular case. There is no substitute for obtaining legal advice specific to your claim from experienced attorneys.

Myth: I have the rest of my life to pursue a claim for damages for injuries sustained in a motor vehicle or work-related accident.

Truth: Every state has certain time limits, called "statutes of limitations," that govern the period of time during which you can file a legal claim for compensation for your injuries. If you miss the statutory deadline for filing a claim, you are forever time-barred from bringing a claim, no matter how traumatic your injuries or how significant your damages. Because statutes of limitations differ from state to state and according to the type of lawsuit involved (motor vehicle accident, work-related injury, or otherwise), we recommend you contact an experienced lawyer soon after your accident to ensure your claim is preserved.

Myth: I can expect a long, drawn-out court battle if I retain a lawyer to pursue my claim.

Truth: Retaining a lawyer does not mean you will have to endure a long, drawn-out court battle. Many injury cases involving lawyers settle without a lawsuit or any court appearance by the client. Others do require hearings, depositions or a trial. Either way, it is important that you have an experienced trial team of attorneys who are expert negotiators and litigators so that you can receive maximum value for your particular case, whether maximum compensation is obtained through traditional settlement negotiations, mediation or trial. Our experience has shown that sometimes a maximum recovery from the insurance carrier cannot be obtained unless and until the insurance carrier realizes your lawyers are prepared and ready to try your case to a judge or jury.

Myth: I need to settle my case before I receive medical treatment.

Truth: You do not need to wait for an injury settlement before submitting to medical treatment, and in many cases it is harmful to your legal case and your health to do so. We encourage our

clients to promptly obtain the medical treatment recommended by their physicians in order to make as complete of a recovery as possible. Your legal case should not dictate your pursuit of medical treatment. After you receive medical treatment, your medical records and bills will be used as evidence in your case to identify the nature and extent of your injuries and the corresponding monetary value of your resultant damages. In most cases, only after your doctors have treated your injuries and released you from care can you identify your total legal damages and the resultant value of your case.

Myth: I will receive more compensation from my claim if I do not hire an attorney because attorneys are so expensive.

Truth: Injury claims are complicated matters. The amount of your recovery in these cases is driven by the specific evidence presented in your case. Experienced attorneys know what medical and vocational evidence is necessary to protect an injured individual's rights under the law and to maximize an injured individual's recovery under the law. Insurance companies also work to obtain favorable medical and vocational evidence which limits the amount of your recovery. Because of complicated medical and legal questions presented in these cases, having the right attorney on your side can frequently result in the injured individual receiving more compensation for his or her damages even after paying his or her attorney. There are no guarantees in any given case, and every case is different, but experienced lawyers can make a maximum recovery more likely.

Myth: I cannot recover for my work-related injury because it was not my employer's fault.

Truth: The Nebraska workers' compensation laws establish a statutory system whereby an injured worker is entitled to compensation for medical care, disability, impairment and vocational rehabilitation when an injury occurs during performance of employment related tasks. It is not necessary to prove the injury was caused by an employer's negligence or fault. Additionally, the Nebraska Workers' Compensation Act eliminates an employer's common law defenses of contributory negligence and assumption of risk, which means an injured worker is still entitled to benefits even if the injured worker knew he/she might be injured performing a dangerous work activity and continued to perform it (i.e. assumed the risk of injury), or if the injured worker's own carelessness contributed to the cause of the injury (i.e. committed contributory negligence).
The Act further provides for compensation from injuries caused by the negligence of coworkers, so an employer cannot avoid workers' compensation liability by arguing that the accident and injuries were a coworker's fault. Unless an employer can prove willful negligence (which is a high standard in Nebraska), or intoxication, an injured worker will most likely be entitled to workers' compensation benefits for injuries occurring as the result of work duties.

Myth: I cannot receive workers' compensation benefits because my injury did not occur on the company's premises.

Truth: Compensable work accidents occur in a wide variety of locations. In Nebraska, injured workers are entitled to workers' compensation benefits if the accident causing injury arose out of and in the course of employment. In general terms, "arising out of and in the course of" employment means that the accident occurred at a time and place where the employee was required to be to perform his or her job duties, and while the employee was engaged in some activity related to his or her employment. This is true regardless of the location of the accident. No matter where your work-related injury occurred, it is important that you report your injury to your employer or direct supervisor immediately. Thereafter, you should contact an experienced and competent workers' compensation lawyer to discuss your legal rights.

Myth: My employer cannot fire me because of my disabilities or limitations resulting from my work-related injury.

Truth: A work-related injury may leave you with a permanent or temporary disability or specific work restrictions/limitations, resulting in your inability to perform the same job duties that you previously performed. While it is illegal for an employer to terminate an employee solely because he or she filed a workers' compensation claim, an employer may be able to terminate an employee if the employee is unable to complete his or her essential job responsibilities. An experienced workers' compensation attorney will be able to advise you on what benefits you are entitled to in these situations, such as disability and vocational rehabilitation benefits. An employee's rights to a job and an employer's ability to terminate an injured worker are often complicated legal issues. It is advisable to get advice from an attorney concerning facts and circumstances particular to your case.