When you suffer an on-the-job injury, you will likely have two interests in mind: getting compensation for your medical costs and lost wages, and getting back to work as quickly as possible. The worker’s compensation insurance system is designed to address those interests as quickly and efficiently as is possible. Your employer and its worker’s compensation insurance company might tell you that the process and payment of any compensation that might be owed to you will be delayed if you hire an attorney to represent you, but you may well be losing substantial amounts of compensation if you do not have your claim reviewed by an attorney. In view of a recent worker’s compensation case in Minnesota, there are many reasons why you should hire an attorney in your own case.
In that case, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that a worker’s compensation settlement agreement precluded claims for compensation for medical conditions that could have been predicted but which only became apparent after the injured employee signed that agreement. The employee suffered a back injury in 2002 which required surgical correction. She continued to experience symptoms of a lower back injury after the surgery, but approximately a year after she suffered the injury she signed an agreement that included language representing that it was a “full, final, and complete” settlement of all of her claims.
She experienced renewed back pain and had additional surgery seven years after the original injury. In 2013, when she continued to experience pain from a lumbar spine injury as well as psychological depression associated with that pain, she filed another worker’s compensation petition for compensation. Her employer moved to dismiss the case and the Minnesota Supreme Court agreed with the employer. The dismissal was largely on procedural grounds, as her appropriate course of action would have been to file a petition to vacate the original settlement agreement.
Still, the dismissal of her second worker’s compensation petition reveals the risk of not retaining legal representation in a worker’s compensation claim. An experienced Minnesota worker’s compensation attorney who was familiar with the type of back injury that the employee suffered could have cautioned her against settling her initial claim on a “full, final, and complete” basis, or that attorney could have negotiated a clause in the settlement that left room for later claims that are common to her type of back injury. Likewise, in her attempt to file a second claim, an experienced attorney could have reviewed the entire history of her injuries, her treatment, and the original settlement agreement to advise her on the appropriate procedures to vacate the original settlement agreement before filing that second claim. This would save the injured employee substantial time and effort, and it would move the second claim forward more quickly.
Injured employees might be reluctant to retain counsel to represent them in worker’s compensation claims due to loyalty to their employers or out of fear that they will be terminated if they create an adversarial environment around their claims. With respect to possible termination, state and federal laws preclude employers from retaliating against employees who retain lawyers to help them when they experience on-the-job injuries. A good employer will also be more likely to appreciate that its own lawyers will be negotiating a settlement with a licensed legal counterpart, as that equality in the negotiations removes any appearance that the employer is attempting to take advantage of an injured employee.
The attorneys at Chesley, Harvey and Carpenter in Mankato, Minnesota have been proud to represent injured employees in numerous worker’s compensation cases. Please contact us for more information on how we can help you in your case and to schedule a consultation with one of our worker’s compensation specialists.
Contact A Mankato Workers' Compensation Lawyer Today
Contact the law office of Chesley, Harvey & Carpenter today at (507) 625-3000 for a free case review. We are located in Mankato, Minnesota.