| Read Time: 5 minutes | Injuries

10 Signs You Need a Workplace Injury Attorney

If you’ve suffered an injury after a workplace accident, you may be confused about what to do next. You know there are certain steps you should take, but you may not know exactly what they are. So you might be wondering, Do I need a lawyer for workers’ comp? In many cases, the answer is yes. The attorneys at The Zimmerman Law Firm are ready to help you get the workers’ compensation benefits you need and deserve. When You Don’t Need a Workplace Accident Lawyer After an accident, many people wonder, Should I get a lawyer for workers’ comp? In some instances, you may not need the help of a lawyer. You may not need a lawyer if: Your resulting injuries are obviously work-related; You do not need extensive medical treatment; You do not suffer any disability forcing you to take time off work; or There are no permanent injuries. If your case involves any of the above-mentioned situations, an insurance company is unlikely to deny your claim. In other words, in these scenarios, you are likely to get the help you need without an attorney. When to Hire a Workers’ Comp Lawyer In other circumstances, you are much better off having a skilled workers’ compensation attorney on your side. The following scenarios can bring about challenges that only a lawyer will know how to handle. In any of the following situations, having a workplace accident lawyer can help you get a much more favorable outcome.  Your Employer Is Delaying the Claim After experiencing a work accident, you need to notify your employer as soon as possible. Once you have notified the employer, they must contact their insurance company and file a claim. If your employer does not act quickly enough, this can negatively affect you. A hurt at work lawyer can help get the process going to get you the benefits you need as soon as possible. Your Claim Is Denied Insurance companies can deny claims for many different reasons. Fortunately, if your claim is denied, you can appeal the decision. However, the need to appeal a denial adds a level of complication to your case that you are likely unprepared to handle alone. Every state’s appeals process varies, but most require filing paperwork and presenting compelling evidence at a hearing. A workers’ compensation lawyer will represent you to ensure your case is handled properly. Your Accident Results in a Permanent Disability There are two types of disability—permanent partial disability and permanent total disability. When there is a permanent partial disability, the employee is still able to work, but not at the same capacity as before the accident. On the other hand, a permanent total disability leaves an employee unable to work altogether. Disabilities are expensive, and insurance companies may push back. Your attorney will help ensure you receive the benefits you need after suffering a disability.  You Are Not Getting the Benefits You Need Depending on your injuries, you may be eligible to receive certain workers’ comp benefits. But not all injuries qualify. So how do you know if you qualify? The easiest way to determine what workers’ comp owes you is to speak with an attorney. They are experienced in workers’ comp cases and can help you fight to protect your rights to receive any benefits you qualify for. You Have a Preexisting Condition If you suffer from a preexisting condition in the same area you injured during your work accident, you can expect the insurance company to fight back and blame it on your condition. Your attorney can help produce evidence to show your injuries were a direct result of your accident. You Are Unable to Get the Treatment You Need Your injuries may require certain treatment, including surgery. The insurance company may delay approving or completely deny your required treatment, especially when the treatment is costly. A lawyer for work-related injury can take the necessary steps to get the insurance company to cover your treatment.  The Insurance Company’s Settlement Offer Does Not Cover All Your Medical Bills or Lost Wages After suffering a workplace accident, you will need to be examined by a doctor. You will receive an impairment rating that reflects how much you have been permanently affected by your work injury. Your rating determines how much compensation you receive, and if the rating is low, you may not get enough to cover all related expenses and lost wages. A workplace injury lawyer can help get you the appropriate rating. Your Employer Retaliates Against You for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim Employers are never allowed to retaliate against an employee for filing a workers’ compensation claim. Retaliation can take many forms, including demotions, a reduction in work hours, a transfer to a different department, or even getting fired. An attorney can help you fight against your employer’s retaliation. You Receive Other Government Benefits If you receive or plan to receive Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI), receiving workers’ compensation benefits may reduce the amount of these benefits. A workers’ compensation lawyer can work out a plan to help reduce the impact on your benefits to help ensure you are receiving the fairest amount of benefits all around.  You Have a Workers’ Compensation Hearing If you are unhappy with the result of your claim, or your claim is denied altogether, you can appeal the insurance company’s decision. In most states, this includes a hearing. A hearing is a serious event, and you are much better off having a lawyer represent you. You Have a Claim Against a Third Party By law, if you suffer an injury at work you can only file a workers’ compensation claim and you cannot file a lawsuit against your employer. Nonetheless, if a third party plays a role in your workplace accident, you are entitled to file suit against them. Your attorney can handle your third-party claim from beginning to end to help make sure you receive compensation for your injuries. What to Expect if You Handle Your Case on Your...

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 4 minutes | Work Injury

Impairment Ratings in Texas Workers’ Compensation Claims

If you have a work-related injury, you may have heard of “impairment ratings.”  You might be wondering what impairment ratings are and why they matter.  Impairment ratings (also called “MMI ratings” in Texas) are a critical part of every workers’ compensation case. The wrong impairment rating can prevent an injured employee from getting the payout they deserve.  If you or a loved one has been injured on the job or assigned an impairment rating in Texas, take a moment to read this post. Our experienced Texas workers’ compensation lawyers discuss what impairment ratings are, how they’re calculated, and why they matter to your case.  For immediate assistance, please contact us online or call (254) 752-9688 to set up a consultation. What Is an Impairment Rating?  Impairment ratings in Texas are ratings that reflect how much a worker has been permanently affected by their work injury. Impairment ratings decide how much compensation an injured employee should receive. It’s kind of like when people rate collectible items as “fair,” “very good,” or “mint” condition. Impairment ratings involve the same concept but apply to permanently injured workers.  How Is an Impairment Rating Made in Texas?  An injured worker receives an impairment rating in Texas only after they have reached “maximum medical improvement,” or “MMI.” Injured workers generally reach MMI when their doctor decides that their injuries are unlikely to get any better. An injured employee can also reach MMI when they’ve received temporary income benefits (TIBs) for two years.  When an injured employee reaches MMI, their doctor will conduct a special examination. During this examination, the doctor measures the workers’ physical condition by assessing things like pain levels, physical strength, and range of motion.  After the examination, the doctor assigns an impairment rating to the injured worker by referencing The Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment. Physicians use this book to compare their findings with defined impairment rating criteria. It’s kind of like a Texas impairment rating calculator.  Let’s use an example. Imagine you hurt your hand and back while working on the job. When you reach MMI, you still can’t bend a couple of your fingers on your injured hand. You also have lower back pain that just won’t go away. Based on this, your doctor assigns you an impairment rating of 25 for your hand and 10 for your back. This means that your hand has a permanent impairment of 25% and your back has a permanent impairment of 10%.  The higher your impairment rating, the less function you’ll have in that part of your body. Why Does My Texas Workers’ Compensation Impairment Rating Matter?  A Texas worker’ compensation impairment rating helps determine how much compensation an injured worker receives. Higher impairment ratings mean greater compensation. In other words, your impairment rating determines your payout in Texas.  How Much Compensation Can I Get?  Injured workers in Texas who have permanent work-related impairments can receive “impairment income benefits,” or “IIBS.”  State law creates a kind of Texas impairment payment rating calculator for these benefits. Each point of impairment allows an injured worker to receive three weeks of income equal to 70% of their weekly wage, provided that amount doesn’t exceed 70% of the state average weekly wage (SAWW). The SAWW varies every year and is available online.  Let’s use an example to show how this Texas impairment rating calculator works. Imagine that a worker named John has an average weekly wage of $1,000 before he injures himself at work. When John reaches MMI, his doctor assigns him an impairment rating of 30%. This means that John will receive IIBs equal to 70% of $1,000, or $700, for 90 weeks. Imagine another injured worker named Jane. Before her injury, Jane made an average weekly wage of $1,500. With the same impairment rating as John, she will receive $705 per week for 90 weeks because the 2021 SAWW is $1,006.71.  Injured workers can receive more than just IIBs. In fact, there are several other kinds of income benefits besides IIBs, including supplemental income benefits (SIBs) and lifetime income benefits (LIBs). These income benefits each have their own unique requirements. For example, injured workers can receive SIBs if they have an impairment rating of 15% or more and either: Have not returned to work; or Have returned to work, but earn less than 80% of their pre-injury weekly wage.  To sum up, your Texas workers’ compensation impairment rating may entitle you to several different kinds of benefits. That is why it is important for you to have an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to represent you.  What Should I Do If I Don’t Agree with My Impairment Rating?  If you don’t agree with your impairment rating, contact us right away. Although the Texas impairment rating evaluations system is supposed to produce consistent, unbiased impairment ratings, the truth is that it’s far from perfect.  For one, different doctors can have different opinions. One doctor might determine that a hand injury results in 10% impairment, while another will assign the same injury an impairment rating of 15% or 20%.  Second, workers’ compensation insurance companies often pay the medical doctors who make impairment ratings. Although doctors are supposed to be unbiased in determining impairment ratings, this financial connection often encourages them to assign lower impairment ratings to save the insurance company money. This in turn motivates the insurance company to help the doctor earn more money by sending more injured employees for evaluation.   Consequently, doctors often assign injured workers unfairly low impairment ratings. How Can The Zimmerman Law Firm, P.C., Help? Chances are, you now realize that an impairment rating is an important but complex issue. No one should have to navigate the complicated world of Texas workers’ compensation law alone. Our experienced Texas workers’ compensation attorneys at The Zimmerman Law Firm, P.C., can help you receive the compensation you deserve. Plus, we won’t charge you any legal fees unless you win your case.  Contact us or call (254) 752-9688 for a free consultation today, and let us...

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 4 minutes | Work Injury

How Much Does Workers’ Compensation Pay in Texas?

If you are injured on the job while employed in the state of Texas, you may be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim to cover the expenses associated with your injury. Not all Texas employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, and it is important to understand your options. According to the most recent statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses across the U.S. in 2018.  What Is Workers’ Compensation? Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides benefits to employees who have suffered a work-related injury or illness. Depending on the nature of your claim, workers’ comp payout amounts can vary.  Texas Workers’ Compensation Not all Texas employers are required to carry workers’ comp insurance. The Texas Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) reported that 28% of private companies in the state do not carry workers’ compensation insurance. If your employer does not carry workers’ comp insurance, you may consider filing a personal injury claim to receive relief for your injury. If your employer does have workers’ comp insurance, there are steps you should take immediately after you are injured or after you realize your injuries are associated with work: Report the injury directly to your employer, and File a DWC Form 041 with the Texas Department of Insurance.  The insurance company will reach out to your employer and review your claim after the form is submitted. Will I Get a Settlement for Workers’ Comp? Most insurance claims can be classified as settlements. You are not actually suing your employer. You are basically filing an insurance claim, similar to what you would do with your own health or auto insurance. According to Texas Labor Code Sec. 408.005, a settlement may not provide for payment of benefits in a lump sum except in specific cases. For a settlement to be approved, both you and the insurance company must come to a clear agreement on the terms of the settlement for workers’ comp. Once an agreement is reached and the settlement is approved, either party can still withdraw if they change their mind as long as it is before the effective date of the settlement.  How Much Does Workers’ Compensation Pay in Texas? Workers’ compensation payout amounts vary depending on your wages and your injuries. Each claim is different. When answering the question, How much does workers’ compensation pay in Texas? you must take into account the relief you need and the methods of calculation used by the state. One important number to know is your average weekly wage (AWW). This is the amount your workers’ compensation income benefits will be based on. In Texas, your AWW is the average wage you earned during the 13 weeks prior to your injury. This includes bonuses and other forms of income including: Car allowance, Health benefits, and Dry cleaning. If you have not been employed for 13 weeks prior to your injury, your AWW will be calculated using that of an employee with the same or a similar job.  What are Potential Workers’ Comp Payouts? The severity of your injuries, paired with your AWW will be the biggest factors that determine how much workers’ compensation pays in Texas. Insurance companies will likely try to minimize both your injuries and AWW. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can ensure that you are getting what you are owed.  Medical Compensation Workers’ compensation payouts should cover all medical expenses related to your condition. This includes all hospitalization, treatment, medications, and follow up care approved by your doctor. Your employer may require you to see an “in-network” doctor, depending on their insurance plan.  Temporary Income Benefits  Injuries and illnesses can prevent you from performing your job in your previous capacity while you heal. Temporary income benefits make up for the difference in your income while you cannot perform your duties. Texas calculates temporary income benefits as 70% of the difference between the wages you are able to earn after injury and the wages you earned before the injury. This number increases to 75% if you were making under $10 per hour. Workers’ comp payout amounts for temporary income can last for 104 weeks from injury, or until you can return to work.  Impairment Income Benefits If permanent bodily damage occurs as a result of your work injury, you may be eligible for impairment income benefits. These are equal to 70% of your average wage and could continue even after you go back to work. A doctor assigns an impairment percentage point to your condition which reflects severity. Each point equals three weeks of impairment income benefits.  Supplemental Income Benefits Like impairment income benefits, your impairment rating has an impact on workers’ compensation payouts for supplemental income benefits. If you have significant permanent damage and receive an impairment rating of 15% or higher, you may receive supplemental income benefits. To be eligible, you must be earning less than 80% of your pre-injury wages, demonstrate you are looking for work, and have not accepted a lump sum payment for your injuries. You also have to re-apply for these benefits every three months. Death and Burial Benefits According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 5,333 fatal work injuries recorded in the United States in 2019. This is a 2% increase from the 5,250 in 2018. Eligible family members of employees who die on the job can receive 75% of lost income. Burial and funeral benefits may include up to $10,000.  Lifetime Income Benefits for Disability In severe circumstances, workers’ compensation payouts may include benefits for permanent disability. These benefits are equal to 75% of your average wages before the injury plus a 3% cost-of-living increase each year. Lifetime income benefits for disability may apply under these circumstances: A spinal injury that causes paralysis in at least one arm or leg; Third-degree burns that cover at least 40% of the body and require a skin graft;  Traumatic brain injury resulting in mental impairment;  Complete blindness; or Amputation...

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 5 minutes | Work Injury

Six Types of OilField Accident Injuries

The Texas oil industry plays a critical role in the state’s economy. Contributing 14% of the total state economy and 40% of total US crude, it’s safe to say that our way of life depends on Texas oil workers.  However, employers don’t always provide workers with safe working conditions. In fact, the oil and gas industry is one of the most dangerous places to work. Investigative reporters analyzed US Department of Labor Data to find some disturbing statistics: From 2008 through 2017, 1,566 workers were killed in oil field jobs; 552 accidents killed oil workers during this time; The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) fines for an oil accident that killed a worker averaged $16,813; From 2008 to 2018, OSHA cited companies in the extraction industry for 10,873 violations; and 64% of OSHA citations were for serious violations, meaning hazards likely to result in death or serious physical harm. While the number of oil field fatalities may seem shocking, these statistics don’t even account for injured workers. In 2011, there were 1,400 nonfatal injuries and illnesses in oil and gas extraction, with 8,500 more injuries and illnesses from supporting activities. After the media attention given to the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010, people assumed that the oil industry would clean up their act. As these statistics show, that safety overhaul didn’t happen. The meager OSHA fines prove that government action is not likely to prompt safer working conditions. Instead, victims of oil industry negligence must speak up and take legal action. In exposing the oil industry’s bad actions and holding them accountable through a lawsuit, you can create safer working conditions for other workers. Please don’t hesitate to call our firm at (254) 752-9688 or send us a message for assistance. Types of Oilfield Injuries Since the oil field is such a dangerous place to work, workplace accidents often lead to life-changing or fatal injuries. Accidents can happen for a variety of reasons—from human error to equipment malfunction—causing severe oilfield injuries before a worker has time to react. So what types of injuries do these accidents cause?  Slip and Fall Injuries When working on high platforms among oil and chemicals, workers encounter the potential for serious slip and fall accidents. A slip and fall can lead to these injuries: Broken bones,  Strained muscles,  Neck or spinal cord injuries, and  Concussions. Sadly, a fall from a high platform or around moving machinery can result in death. Equipment Malfunction Injuries The heavy equipment that is powerful enough to extract oil from deep beneath the earth can cause severe injuries if it malfunctions. Either a manufacturing defect or human error can lead to catastrophic equipment accidents, causing any of these injuries: Crushed limbs, Severed limbs, Broken bones, Neck and back injuries, and Traumatic brain injuries. Workers injured by equipment malfunction may lose the ability to work and provide for their families. Rig Collapse Injuries Oil rigs weighing thousands of tons balance power and stability. Sometimes, quick construction using sloppy methods produces an unstable rig. When a rig collapses, these oil field injuries might result: Broken bones, Traumatic brain injuries, Severed limbs, and Back injuries. Workers who are high up on a collapsing rig or trapped beneath it may not survive the accident. Fire and Explosion Injuries The high heat and volatile chemicals used in the oil industry create the potential for fires and explosions. These horrific accidents have cost many oil workers their lives. Workers who survive oil fires and explosions can suffer these injuries: Burns, Head injuries, and Nerve damage. Oil fires and explosions receive much media coverage, but the oil industry has not improved safety standards to prevent these terrible disasters. Poisonous Gas Injuries The oil extraction process can release poisonous gases, such as hydrogen sulfide, which poses a lethal hazard to unprotected workers. The colorless gas collects in enclosed spaces where it awaits unsuspecting workers. This Center for Public Integrity article discusses the lax inspections and regulations that leave workers vulnerable to gas injuries, such as these: Nausea and vomiting, Headache, and Unconsciousness. Sadly, workers exposed to poisonous gases are often provided no respiratory protection, resulting in them being killed instantly. Electrocution The electricity required to power oil equipment poses a hazard to oilfield workers. Also, workers in the vast Texas desert, surrounded by towering metal equipment, are vulnerable to lightning strikes. Electrocution can injure workers in these ways: Burns, Shock, and Unconsciousness. An oil worker who suffers electric shock may not receive prompt emergency response due to the remote location of oil fields. Thus, many electrical accidents kill workers. Types of Compensation Available If you were injured or a loved one was killed in an oilfield accident, you may be able to sue. Texas workers who experience oilfield injuries have access to several potential forms of compensation. Workers’ Compensation Texas employers are not required to cover workers’ compensation insurance. If your employer does carry this insurance, you can file for workers’ comp, but you can’t sue your employer. Workers’ compensation will pay your medical bills and provide you with a portion of your salary for a limited time, depending on the extent of your injuries. This insurance program may also pay for job retraining if you cannot work at your oil field job due to your injuries. Personal Injury or Wrongful Death Lawsuit However, if your employer does not subscribe to workers’ compensation insurance, you can sue for a personal injury, survival claim, or wrongful death. An injured worker brings a personal injury lawsuit. The family or estate of a worker who was killed may be able to file a survival claim for the workers’ oil field injuries or a wrongful death claim for the family’s harm. Also, if your oil field injury was caused by a third party—not your employer or a coworker—you may be able to sue that company or individual. For instance, if the oil field equipment malfunctioned and caused your injury, you may be able to sue the manufacturer. How an Oil Field Lawyer...

Continue Reading

| Read Time: 5 minutes | Work Injury

What to Do After an Oil Field Accident in Texas

A Texas oil field accident can happen in an instant, changing your life. An accident may leave you injured, out of work, and wondering how to pay your bills. Even worse, an oilfield accident could claim the life of someone you love.  When an accident occurs, you may feel helpless and unsure of whether you deserve compensation. If you need assistance, you’re in the right place. At The Zimmerman Law Firm, our attorneys can help evaluate the circumstances of the accident and let you know what compensation may be available. Know that you’re not alone in this experience. Thousands of other families have suffered oilfield accidents, and our lawyers have represented many of those victims. As our attorneys have learned through years of helping oil field accident victims, you should do a few things to prepare for a possible injury lawsuit. Take the following steps to give yourself the best chance of obtaining maximum compensation. Seek Medical Attention Your priority must be getting medical treatment for serious injuries. By delaying medical treatment, you risk worsening your injury. You also put your ability to recover compensation in question. If your employer assumes you are uninjured, it may be hard to claim otherwise later.  Don’t hesitate to take care of yourself, and let our investigators gather key accident evidence. Your employer may request that you visit a company doctor. This is fine as a first step, but a company doctor may attempt to minimize the extent of your injuries. If you doubt a company doctor’s medical evaluation, you can obtain a second opinion from a neutral doctor.  Don’t feel pressured to return to work before you have recovered from your injuries. That could make things worse. Instead, get the treatment you need, and save all medical reports and invoices. Report Your Accident to Your Employer Inform your employer of your accident and any potential hazard to other employees. Document these details when you notify your employer of the accident:  Date and time of notification, Who you notified, and  Your employer’s response. Complete an incident report, a written account of your accident on a form provided by your employer. Describe the facts of your accident to your employer in an honest manner, but don’t hesitate to contact an attorney for advice if your employer’s questions seem hostile or make you uncomfortable. You usually have a limited time to inform your employer of an accident if you want to qualify for workers’ compensation. Make this report right away. When your employer reports the accident to workers’ compensation, this begins a formal accident investigation. Once the accident investigation is underway, you should not speak to investigators without advice from an attorney. Gather Accident Information If you don’t need immediate medical attention, gather any available accident evidence. Take photos of the accident scene and surrounding work environment. Write down the names and contact information for witnesses to the accident. Write down what you remember about the accident, including details like the time of the accident and sequence of events before the accident.  If you’re hurt and unable to gather these details, don’t worry. Write down anything you remember once you’ve received medical attention. Our investigators can gather other needed details from the scene of the oil field accident. Note others at your workplace who have experienced similar oilfield accidents, and our attorneys can follow up with them. Contact an Oil Field Accident Lawyer You should contact an oilfield accident lawyer as soon as possible after your injury. An attorney can help you get appropriate medical care and advise you on steps to recover compensation. An experienced oilfield attorney also knows the tactics your employer may use to try to deny your claim.  Our attorneys can coach you on questions to expect before interviews or other interactions with your employer or the insurance company. We always advise you to give honest answers, but we help you think through your experience so that you don’t feel intimidated or caught off guard. Our law firm employs skilled investigators who will gather and review all available evidence from your accident. We can determine who was responsible, which may be a different conclusion than your employer asserts. Our attorneys will fight for your just compensation and help you explore all legal options to get the money you need. What Compensation Is Available? When you meet with our attorneys, we’ll inform you of possible strategies to obtain injury compensation.  Workers’ Compensation The most straightforward and first step usually involves filing for workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system of recovery, meaning that even if you caused your accident, you can still file a claim.  In Texas, if your employer carries workers’ compensation insurance, it will pay for your medical treatment and a portion of your average weekly wage. Texas workers usually receive from 70 to 80% of their average weekly wage on workers’ compensation, with required maximums and minimums. For instance, you cannot earn more than $971 per week through workers’ compensation, even if that amount is less than 70% of your average weekly wage.  However, you can only receive workers’ compensation benefits for so long. Your workers’ compensation will cease when any of these events occur: You reach maximum medical improvement, meaning further medical treatment won’t help you recover; You return to work (at the same wage as before the accident); or You received temporary wage compensation for 104 weeks. There are some exceptions to these limitations. For instance, if you can’t return to your previous job, you may be eligible for retraining that would allow you to work another job. Also, if you need spinal surgery, you may receive wage benefits for longer than two years. If you are permanently injured, you will be eligible for additional payments. Family members of an employee who was killed on the job may be able to receive workers’ compensation death benefits for a limited time. Workers’ compensation provides the money you need to pay some of your bills while you seek medical...

Continue Reading