At our law firm, we help Illinois employees with their workers’ compensation claims after they have sustained work-related injury or contracted occupational diseases. It is helpful for us to become involved at the very beginning with the filing of the claim, but our attorneys can also provide advice and representation at any stage, including in further appeals of denied claims.
An interesting article
In a new article in a publication geared toward the insurance industry, the author shared information from a recent conference that a variety of workers’ compensation professionals attended. The author described rumblings from some employers that believe the claims process could be less adversarial.
Basically, some panelists felt that employers should be more supportive of injured workers throughout the claims process, with about 10% of claims currently being denied and heading for mediation or litigation. The panelists believed employers should take care of injured or ill employees and see that they get proper workers’ compensation benefits, including covered medical care to help them return to work. Part of this new paradigm would be to improve communication with claimants throughout the claims process, including asking for claimants’ opinions on proper medical treatment.
But one of their reasons for this stance was that doing so would make employees less likely to bring in legal counsel, which may make it more expensive for employers.
However, the focus should not be on the expense to employers. Rather, it should be on claimants’ appropriate financial support, health, wellness, recovery and return to active employment. For those with permanent disability, the focus should be on assessing and paying out appropriate long-term wage replacement.
Getting it right the first time
Of course, better communication and more interactive claims processing would benefit injured claimants, sometimes greatly. Proper approval of claims from the beginning and earlier benefit payments could result. We can get behind that.
But we cannot agree to any opinion or practice that would discourage injured employees from seeking legal advice or representation. A lawyer can help absorb the stress of the process so the worker can concentrate on healing. The attorney will be familiar with the procedures and law and can monitor the claims process, including facilitation of adequate development of the medical records.
Counsel can evaluate any settlement offer or decision on a claim to determine whether it is fair – and assist in settlement negotiation or review and appeal of a denial.
Finally, an attorney can assess the injury and surrounding circumstances to determine whether there may be additional legal remedies or rights like a Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) claim.