Most Louisiana workers give little thought to their workers' compensation benefits until they suffer an on-the-job injury. However, understanding this program is crucial to protecting your right to benefits.
Important Information To Know If You've Been Injured At Work
You Can Still Receive Benefits Even If You're at Fault
Since workers' compensation is a no-fault system, you can still receive benefits even if you caused your injury due to inexperience or inattentiveness. However, one possible exception to the no-fault rule is if your injury was caused by your use of drugs or alcohol while on the job. If you fail a post-accident drug test or refuse a drug screen, there is a presumption that your intoxication caused the accident.
Some Types of Mental Health Injuries Are Eligible for Benefits
Louisiana law allows for coverage of both physical and mental on-the-job injuries. However, mental health conditions must be supported by clear and compelling evidence and be the result of a physical injury or sudden, unexpected, and extraordinary stress related to your employment.
If You're Injured in a Car Accident, You Might Also Have a Civil Claim
If you were injured in a car accident while driving for your employer and you were either not at fault or only partially at fault, you may also be able to file a civil personal injury claim against the other driver. This would allow you to collect benefits for property damage as well as pain and suffering—two categories not covered by Louisiana workers' compensation benefits. However, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Administration (OWCA) will have a lien on a portion of the settlement you receive to avoid payment of double benefits for lost wages and medical costs.
In Most Cases, Receiving Workers Compensation and Unemployment Benefits Constitutes Fraud
If you're not working because of an on-the-job injury, it's natural to wonder if you might also be able to receive unemployment benefits. However, this is typically considered fraud because unemployment requires you to be physically able to work and actively looking for work. When you're receiving workers' compensation, the expectation is that you'll go back to your employer as soon as you're able.
The only possible exception is if you're receiving Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) payments as part of your workers' compensation settlement. If you're actively looking for a position that fits your physical limitations, PPD payments won't disqualify you from unemployment benefits.
You're Entitled to Mileage Reimbursement
When you're out of work due to an injury, every penny counts. Injured Louisiana workers are entitled to be reimbursed for reasonable and necessary mileage for obtaining medical services, medication, and prosthetic devices related to their on-the-job injuries. You must submit appropriate itemized expenditures to the insurer to receive payment.
Employers Sometimes Misclassify Workers to Avoid Paying Benefits
Independent contractors are not entitled to workers' compensation benefits under Louisiana law. Consequently, some unscrupulous employers may attempt to misclassify workers to avoid paying the state-mandated benefits following an on-the-job injury. There are specific legal criteria that must be met for you to be an independent contractor. Companies that misclassify workers face a $1,000 fine per offense with potential imprisonment for misclassification of large numbers of workers.
You Don't Need to Pay Upfront to Hire an Attorney
Although uncontested claims involving minor injuries don't require the services of an attorney, legal representation is needed when your injuries result in significant time off work or your employer is disputing the validity of your claim. Without an attorney's help, you risk not being able to access the benefits you need to recover from your injuries.
Workers' compensation attorneys are paid on a contingency fee basis, which means your attorney accepts a percentage of the final settlement as a fee for his services. This allows you access to quality representation without any upfront expense.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's award-winning legal team is dedicated to protecting the rights of injured Louisiana workers. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.