Workers involved in on-the-job accidents may be seriously injured and unable to work—while unexpected medical bills accumulate all around them. Fortunately, in Delaware, workers injured during the normal scope of employment may be entitled to benefits under the state's workers' compensation system. These benefits may include compensation for accident-related medical expenses, temporary total disability payments while the employee is out of work recovering from their injuries, and temporary partial benefit payments if the employee returns to work part-time, or in a position that pays less than their pre-injury position. In extreme cases, benefits are also offered for permanent impairment and disfigurement.
After an accident, injured workers may rely on workers' compensation benefits to provide for themselves and their family. They may naively expect their employer—and their employer's workers' compensation insurance carrier—to treat them and their claim fairly, especially if they've been a hardworking, loyal employee. Unfortunately, this doesn't always happen. Sometimes employers and their insurance companies behave unfairly and, when they do, it's important that injured workers understand how to protect themselves.
Examples of Unfair Treatment
Unfair behavior by employers and insurance companies happens more often than most people realize. Watch for these common examples of unfair treatment:
- Retaliation. Delaware state law prohibits employers from discriminating against—or firing—employees simply for filing a workers' compensation claim or testifying as a witness in a workers' compensation case. However, that doesn't mean that employers can't come up with other reasons for letting a worker with an active workers' compensation case go.
- Denying medical services or temporary disability benefits. Workers injured in the workplace should report the accident to their employer immediately, and request medical services. The best-case scenario is that the worker is approved for the medical care they need and, if their injury-related absence from work lasts four days or more, they also receive temporary total disability benefits. Sadly, some employers try to play hardball with workers by unfairly denying them the medical care and other benefits they need.
Dealing With Retaliation
Discriminating or retaliating against a worker for filing a workers' compensation claim is expressly prohibited by Delaware law. Discriminatory or retaliatory behavior may include harassing, demoting, transferring, or punishing an employee for reporting a workplace accident and pursuing the benefits they're owed. These actions are illegal and should be reported to the workers' compensation attorney representing the victim.
Appealing a Denied Claim to the Industrial Affairs Board (IAB)
A denied workers' compensation claim doesn't have to be the end of the road for injured workers. Those who wish to appeal their claim denial should submit a completed Petition to Determine Compensation Due form to the Delaware Office of Workers' Compensation as soon as possible.
The next steps in the appeals process include filing pre-trial memorandums, attending a pre-trial scheduling conference, presenting the evidence to the IAB, and calling witnesses. After both sides have finished making their cases to the IAB, the board issues its decision in writing.
Appealing a Denied Claim Through the Delaware Court System
An IAB ruling that doesn't go an injured worker's way can be devastating. Fortunately, the IAB isn't the end of the line. Injured workers have 30 days from the date of the IAB's denial to appeal the decision through the state court system—first through the Superior Court in the county where the workplace accident occurred and finally through the Delaware State Supreme Court. The appeal to the Supreme Court must be filed within 30 days of the Superior Court's decision.
Were You Treated Unfairly by an Employer or Insurance Company After an On-the-Job Injury? Consult an Experienced Workers' Compensation Attorney
Don't let an employer or insurance company's unfair tactics prevent you from obtaining the workers' compensation benefits you and your family need and deserve following a workplace accident. When your employer and their workers' compensation insurance carrier won't look out for your best interests, you need someone who will. The Morris James Personal Injury Group's knowledgeable and experienced workers' compensation attorneys have a long track record of helping injured workers in Delaware. Contact us today to schedule an appointment for a free initial consultation with a member of our skilled legal team.