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What Is A Personal Injury Attorney?

When a person has been injured, whether physically, emotionally or both, as the result of an act of negligence or wrongdoing, they often choose to retain the services of a personal injury lawyer. These legal professionals are engaged in protecting the rights of injured persons, filing claims and lawsuits, and managing all aspects of recovering compensation.

All personal injury cases hinge upon the legal concept of negligence, which is essentially when a person (or entity) acts or fails to act in a manner that another reasonable person would.

It is a broad concept, but can be applied to countless situations, such as drunk, speeding, reckless or distracted drivers, acts of medical malpractice, unsafe premises, or even dangerous dogs that have been allowed to roam freely. Establishing negligence is the first order of business for the personal injury lawyer, and he or she will review the facts in the case to make a decision about its merits. Some cases of negligence are very clear, and not in question, where others could are far more difficult to resolve.

Most injury cases are settled outside of court, but some must proceed to court when challenged, or when an insurance company will not pay adequate compensation to a victim.

Insurance companies are in the business of making money, and are commercial operations that answer to upper management and shareholders. The bottom line is the profits made by the company. Most people do not fully understand the processes that insurance companies employ when evaluate the value of, and pay out compensation for claims. Initially, an interview with the injured person takes place. Unfortunately, these interviews may have a hidden goal – getting the injured party to admit to some level of responsibility for the injury. Access to medical records is part of the process as well, and your entire medical history will be painstakingly reviewed to find out if there is any condition, illness or other situation that could have made the level of injury worse.

For example, if you had an existing back pain problem, were then hit by another driver, and your back injury was exacerbated, the insurance company could claim you already had a back condition and the accident was not the sole cause of the injuries you sustained. A personal injury lawyer works to protect the injured from these types of strategies, and is very familiar with how to manage requests for information from an insurance adjuster. In many cases, a person who is represented by an injury attorney will recover double or triple the amount in compensation than if the he or she had tried to resolve the case without legal help.

Insurance Companies and Personal Injury Lawyers

Insurance company personnel can often try to deter an injured person from contacting a lawyer, and will say that all that will occur is that some of the settlement money will be lost in legal fees. In fact, a personal injury lawyer takes a set percentage of the final settlement, which if it is far higher than the injured person would have recovered, is still significantly higher in value. How do they do it? They know how to correctly evaluate the long term consequences of the injury upon the person, and how state-specific laws or caps on certain damages can impact the amount sought in a claim or lawsuit.

For serious injuries, it is important that the injured person is adequately compensated. An individual who is facing disabilities, whether physical, mental or both, will be dealing with difficult challenges, and may never be able to work in his or her chosen profession again, or provide the income, love and care to the family as prior to the injury. These are all issues that must be evaluated and given a monetary value. A personal injury lawyer is a professional in this field, and can advise you of the actual value of your injury claim, and then proceed to pursue compensation that is fair. Insurance company personnel, such as defense lawyers, are aware that when a legal professional is on the case there is far less “wiggle room” and a much lower chance of getting an injured person to accept an unfair settlement.

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I Got Injured at Work – What’s Next?

Thanks to the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1970 (OSH Act), employers in the United States are legally required to provide their employees with a safe work environment free from known dangers. The OSH Act created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, commonly known as OSHA, to set and enforce health and safety standards, and secure workers’ rights in the workplace. Unfortunately, even after the passing of the OSH Act and the creation of OSHA, workplace injuries still occur at an alarming rate.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, in excess of 3 million work-related injuries and illnesses were reported by the private industry business sector in 2013. More than half of the reported cases were serious enough to require time off from work, and for many people that means loss of income. If you were injured on the job, would you know your rights? Do you know what recourse you would have to protect your financial and physical health?

Injured Worker’s Rights

Each state has its own workers’ compensation laws, and the rights each state extends to injured employees differ as well. However, there are some commonalities among state laws, including the right to seek medical treatment for your injuries and the right to return to work once a doctor has released you. Some rights surrounding the issue of workers compensation are also somewhat universal. Those include the following:

  • The right to file an injury claim in workers compensation court without fear of reprisal (or the employer will face severe sanctions).
  • The right to seek disability compensation when injuries render the employee temporarily or permanently unable to work.
  • The right to appeal decisions rendered by the employer’s insurance company, the workers compensation court, or the employer himself.
  • The right to be represented by legal counsel.
  • The right to refuse certain requests, such as if an employer encourages the injured employee to utilize his personal health insurance to seek treatment.
  • The right to refuse certain offers, such as a monetary incentive not to file a claim. In fact, that is illegal.

Understanding your rights, and where to turn for help, are critical to getting the assistance you need when you need it. You are your own best advocate when it comes to retaining your rights and securing workers compensation benefits.

What You Should Do

The first step you should take when you’ve been hurt at work is to report the injury to your employer so it can be properly documented. Next, file a workers compensation claim with your state as soon as you are reasonably able to do so. If your employer attempts to dissuade you from filing a claim, your claim is denied, or you believe the result was otherwise unjust, contact a lawyer who specializes in employee’s rights issues because workers compensation is a critical lifeline for those who are injured and unable to work.

Workers Compensation Benefits

Filing a claim for workers compensation benefits allows the injured employee to receive more than just short term financial assistance while he recovers. The benefits also extend to medical care (including emergency care), death benefits (paid to the family), job displacement, or retraining benefits, and even permanent disability benefits if the injury is severe enough that the employee can no longer work.

Most work injuries do not leave the employee permanently disabled, but since more than half of all on-the-job injuries require time off from work, an injury can be financially debilitating nonetheless. If you’ve been injured at work, protect your rights by immediately reporting the injury to your employer, and then follow up by filing a workers compensation claim.