A workers’ comp claim is not the same as filing a lawsuit. In fact, your options to sue for a work injury are limited in most cases.
The legal proceedings involved in a workers’ compensation claim are different from the process of suing for personal injury. It is crucial to understand your legal rights after a workplace injury and take steps at once to ensure that your claim is filed properly and on time.
Colombo Law can help with your workers’ comp claim. We can also identify any additional legal options you might have for seeking compensation.
For a FREE case review, call (304) 599-4229 today. Colombo Law serves clients in Morgantown and throughout West Virginia.
How Long After a Work Accident Can I Claim Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a critical safety net for employees who are injured in the course of their work. If you suffer a work injury or an illness related to your work, you are entitled to coverage of medical expenses. You may also qualify for disability benefits payments. In exchange for these benefits, however, employees are generally barred from suing their employers for an on-the-job injury.
Depending on the circumstances, you may be limited to filing a workers’ comp claim through your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance. The guidance given by the West Virginia Insurance Commissioner is that injured workers should notify their employers of an injury as soon as possible. The only thing an injured worker should do before notifying their employer is to receive any necessary medical care. The guidelines state that an “immediate notice” is a notice given within 2 working days.
While you may file a claim up to 6 months after an occupational injury, waiting more than 2 working days to notify your employer may harm your claim. According to West Virginia Administrative Code § 85-1-3: “Failure to immediately give notice to the employer of the injury weighs against a finding of compensability in the weighing of the evidence … and dilutes the credibility and reliability of the claim.”
You should alert your employer as soon as you can. If your employer does not report the injury to its insurer (which it is required to do within 5 days if you notify your employer that you wish to file a claim), you should talk to a lawyer about filing your own workers’ comp claim as soon as possible.
How Long Do I Have to Sue for Work-Related Injuries?
There are only a few rare circumstances where you may be able to file a lawsuit against your employer for a work-related injury:
- If your employer intentionally causes an injury or death.
- If your employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance.
- If you are misclassified as an independent contractor.
Although employers are generally immune from liability for most workplace accidents (even ones where their negligence was a factor), this same immunity does not apply to third parties. There are multiple scenarios where a third party can be sued, including:
- A negligent contractor or subcontractor causes an accident in your workplace in which you suffer injury.
- You are injured on the job by a careless driver who causes a vehicle accident.
- The negligence of the owner of your workplace or another property where you are working creates a dangerous condition causing you to slip and fall or suffer other injury.
- You sustain a work-related injury due to a product defect.
- You are exposed to asbestos or other hazardous materials in the workplace.
It is important to know that these types of claims – both suing your employer and suing a third party – can be extremely complicated. However, pursuing all legal options is important for recovering the maximum compensation you deserve for a work injury.
Get Started on Your Workers’ Comp Claim
The workers’ compensation system in West Virginia is designed to provide employees with access to benefits if they get hurt on the job. You do not have to sue to recover benefits, which should provide you with easier access to coverage of medical expenses, disability payments, and more.
Unfortunately, the system does not always work as intended. Sometimes employers refuse to cooperate. Sometimes claims are unfairly denied. Sometimes employers knowingly allow their workers to be injured. Sometimes employers misclassify their employees. Furthermore, sometimes workers’ comp will not be enough to cover injuries sustained due to third-party negligence.
At Colombo Law, we strive to make sure your workers’ comp claim goes as smoothly as possible. Our attorneys are dedicated to serving injured workers and their families throughout West Virginia.
In addition to handling all aspects of your workers’ comp claim, we can determine if you have a viable third-party lawsuit. We will fight to maximize your compensation via settlement talks and even by going to trial if necessary.