Janelle Youtsey 2013-03-06 00:42:50
Shakespeare Had It Wrong; The First Thing to Do is Call a Lawyer! Janelle Youtsey joined the Fendon Law Firm, P.C. as an associate February 2012. Prior to joining the Fendon Law Firm, Janelle worked for the Law Office of Chris T. Johnson, P.C. specializing in workers’ compensation. Janelle has a MA in sociology from Arizona State University and earned her JD from Phoenix School of Law in 2009. Janelle handles workers’ compensation and social security disability cases and does appellate work for the firm. She is passionate about fighting for injured workers and disabled individuals using her legal knowledge and expertise to get her clients the benefits they need and deserve. Janelle can be reached at 602-256-2000, ext. 314 or via email at email@example.com. Most potential clients assume that obtaining workers’ compensation benefits is straight-forward and simple. Many do not consult an attorney until their claim is denied or they have trouble getting the benefits or treatment they are entitled to under their industrial claim. Others may call an attorney because a family member or friend suggested they consult an attorney “just in case.” Ironically, many injured workers believe that they have an accepted claim because they were sent to the company doctor and not billed for the visit. However, after speaking to us, most agree that calling an experienced workers’ compensation attorney is one of the smartest things they ever did. First and foremost, how does the worker know his or her claim has been accepted? The carrier or self-insuring employer typically issues a Notice of Claim Status (NCS) to accept or deny a claim. Most claims are accepted by Notice of Claim Status; however, if the claim involves medical treatment but no time lost from work, a “no time lost” (NTL) claim, the carrier or self-insuring employer can accept the claim by notifying the commission it is a “NTL” claim and the claimant may not get any paperwork clarifying the status of their claim. The employer typically sends an injured worker to the company doctor as soon as an injury is reported; however, this does not mean the claim has been formally accepted. Therefore, if the claimant does not have a NCS indicating that their claim has been accepted, we advise them to file a claim immediately. Claimants can do this by filing a Worker’s Report of Injury with the Industrial Commission of Arizona. The carrier or self-insuring employer has 21 days from the date of notification by the commission to accept or deny the claim. Pursuant to §23-908 (E) injured workers have a duty to report their injury to their employer “forthwith.” This requirement is in place to protect employers. Reporting the injury forthwith permits the employer to investigate the circumstances of the injury and to ensure medical treatment is provided promptly. Failure to report the injury forthwith is an affirmative defense that may be used to deny an otherwise valid industrial claim. Therefore, we advise claimants to notify their employer immediately, preferably in writing. The seriousness of an injury may not be apparent initially, so it is prudent to document the injury in case it requires treatment at some future point. We advise seeking medical treatment immediately. However, claimants should not visit the company doctor more than once or that doctor will become their treating doctor under the industrial claim. Claimants have the right to choose their treating doctor if their employer is not self-insured. The “treating doctor” calls the shots in workers’ compensation. Many claimants mistakenly believe they can see another doctor under their own private medical insurance. Again, many learn the hard way that this is not the case. If their family doctor puts them on a “no work status” and they stay home from work they can jeopardize their job and their claim. Furthermore, if they simply “quit” they may forfeit temporary compensation under their industrial claim. Instead, claimants should make a good faith effort to work within the restrictions given to them by their treating doctor. If they are unable to do so successfully, we advise them to clearly communicate this to their supervisor, preferably in writing, and to discuss their difficulties working with the treating doctor. The treating doctor may revise their work restrictions and/or work status after consulting with the injured worker. Perhaps the biggest misconception injured workers share is that once their claim is accepted, it is smooth sailing. Myriad potential issues emerge as the claim unfolds. Recommended treatment may not be authorized, temporary compensation may be computed incorrectly, or the worker may be discharged improperly. Claimants may need continued medical treatment or may have sustained a permanent impairment or loss of earning capacity. Claimants are advised to review the contents of a new Notice of Claim Status and to protest it within 90 days or it becomes final pursuant to §23-947. However, inexperienced claimants may not fully understand their notices. Moreover, they may not understand their rights and benefits which can have devastating consequences. When claimants call us after they get injured, we reassure them that this is the wisest thing they did to ensure their claim is handled properly. While obtaining worker’s compensation benefits may seem like a “no brainer,” this is not the case. Unfortunately, everything that can go wrong often does. Therefore, calling a lawyer is the most important thing a claimant can do. Claimants need the help and guidance of an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who has the client’s best interests at heart.
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