FAQs About Workers’ CompensationGet Help Now
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault knows you have questions about filing or appealing a workers’ compensation claim. Our website provides answers to your most critical questions about how to receive financial support.
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Can I receive both workers' compensation and unemployment benefits at the same time?
If you're unable to work after suffering an on-the-job injury, it makes sense to see what type of compensation you're entitled to receive. However, it's important to note that most Louisiana residents can't legally collect workers' compensation benefits and unemployment benefits at the same time.
About Workers' Compensation Benefits
Workers' compensation benefits provide financial support to employees who suffer on-the-job injuries. Benefits pay for medical care related to the injury as well as replacement of a portion of the lost wages.
Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits for injured Louisiana workers are paid at a rate that is two-thirds of their average weekly wage but subject to minimum and maximum rates that change each year. As of September 1, 2017, the minimum benefit is $174 per week, and the maximum benefit is $653 per week.
There is no limit on the length of time you can receive TTD benefits. However, payments end when you are able to return to work or have reached maximum medical improvement (MMI).
About Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment benefits are intended to provide support if you've involuntarily lost your job or are involuntarily working reduced hours through no fault of your own. To be eligible for unemployment benefits, you must be actively looking for work from at least three different employers each week and able to accept a position when it is offered.
Unemployment benefits are awarded regardless of financial need, but the amount you receive is based on your work history and past earnings. The current minimum benefit payment in Louisiana is $10 per week, while the maximum payment is $247 per week. Claimants can receive benefits for a maximum of 26 weeks, as long as they continue to look for work. However, in times where there are very high unemployment rates throughout the state, claimants may gain special access to additional weeks of benefit payments.
The Relationship Between Workers' Compensation and Unemployment Benefits
Unemployment benefits provide substantially less support than workers' compensation benefits because unemployed workers with no physical limitations are expected to find new jobs as soon as possible. Injured workers receive higher benefits because their medical condition limits their ability to work. They're not expected to look for work because they typically already have a position to return to when they've recovered from their injury.
Receiving Both Unemployment and Workers' Compensation Benefits
In most cases, you cannot receive both unemployment benefits and workers' compensation benefits at the same time.
If you are unable to work because of an on-the-job injury, you do not qualify for unemployment benefits because your injury makes you medically unfit for work. Additionally, your current employer is holding your job until you are able to return to work.
Attempting to receive both unemployment and workers' compensation benefits when you are not eligible is considered fraud. You will likely be subjected to potential criminal and/or civil penalties.
One of the questions asked each week when applicants report their work search is "Did you receive or apply for workers' compensation during this week?" This question is specifically asked to identify cases of potential fraud.
The only way it may be possible to receive both unemployment benefits and workers' compensation benefits is if you are currently receiving permanent partial disability (PPD) payments under the workers' compensation program. PPD benefits are awarded for serious injuries such as amputations, disfigurement, and permanent hearing loss. If you're receiving PPD benefits and actively looking for new work that is better suited to your physical limitations, you may be eligible for both types of assistance.
Protecting Your Right to Compensation
State laws regarding unemployment and workers' comp can be complicated, which is why working with an attorney is often the best way to protect your right to compensation. Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's legal team is dedicated to helping Louisiana workers access the benefits they need to recover from on-the-job injuries. To learn more about how we can help with your claim, contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
Can my workers' compensation claim be denied if I test positive for drugs or alcohol?
Workers' compensation benefits provide a valuable safety net for employees who are injured on the job. However, if you fail a post-accident drug or alcohol test, collecting benefits will become much more complicated.
About Post-Accident Drug or Alcohol Screenings
Workers' compensation is a considered a no-fault system, which means you can still receive benefits even if your own inexperience or carelessness caused your injury. However, the no-fault presumption doesn't apply to drug and alcohol use on the job.
Many people mistakenly assume that post-accident screenings are only looking for alcohol and illicit drugs. However, you will be considered to have failed the test if you test positive for prescription drugs that were not prescribed to you by a healthcare provider. This includes opioid pain medications such as OxyContin, Vicodin, and Percocet.
For alcohol use, a BAC of 0.08 or more creates the assumption that you were intoxicated. A BAC in excess of 0.05 but less than 0.08 may be considered with other evidence to determine whether you were intoxicated at the time of the accident.
Refusing to take a drug or an alcohol test after suffering injuries in a work-related accident creates the presumption that you were intoxicated at the time of the incident.
Collecting Benefits After a Failed Drug or Alcohol Test
Emergency treatment will still be provided after a failed drug or alcohol test, but receiving further workers' compensation benefits will become much more difficult. To continue receiving benefits, you'll need to provide that your case falls into one of the limited exemptions.
Reasons you may still be able to collect benefits in Louisiana despite a failed drug or alcohol test include:
- There was no written policy prohibiting drug or alcohol use. To use intoxication to avoid paying benefits, the employer needs to prove there was a formal policy banning drug or alcohol use in the workplace and stating consequences such as denial of workers' compensation benefits and termination of employment.
- The drug and alcohol use policy wasn't communicated to employees. It's not enough to simply make a policy banning drug and alcohol use in the workplace. Employees must receive a copy of the policy, so they know the consequences of failing a drug or an alcohol test.
- The results are excluded due to a failure to use uniform chain of custody procedures. When the sample isn't handled property, the results are inadmissible.
- Your drug or alcohol use was not the cause of the accident. If you fail a drug or an alcohol test, this creates the presumption that your intoxication caused the accident. However, this may not actually be the case. For example, if you were retrieving boxes from a shelf in a warehouse and a fellow employee ran a forklift into the shelf and caused the boxes to fall on top of you, the injuries you received would likely be considered the fault of the forklift driver. In this case, whether or not you were intoxicated is irrelevant.
- Your employer provided intoxicating substances or encouraged substance use. This defense is rarely used, but Louisiana law exempts intoxication from being used to avoid paying workers' compensation claims if the employee's intoxication is the result of activities in pursuit of the employer's interests or if the employer provided the intoxicating beverage or substance and encouraged its use during work hours.
Failing a Return-to-Work Drug Test
Drug tests are often required when you return to work after suffering an on-the-job injury. If you fail this test, your income benefits can be terminated and your claim for Supplemental Earning Benefits will likely be denied. However, your employer will still be required to provide reasonable and necessary medical treatment.
Louisiana law RS 23:1221 states: "When an injured employee has been released to return to work with or without restrictions, and the employer maintains an established written and promulgated substance abuse policy which requires employer-administered drug testing prior to employment or return to work, upon the employee's failure to meet the requirements of such employer's established policy and inability to qualify for the position for that reason, the obligation for all benefits pursuant to this Chapter, with the sole exception of the obligation to provide reasonable and necessary medical treatment, shall be terminated and the employee shall be subject to the terms and conditions established in the employer's promulgated drug testing policy and program. The provisions of this Subparagraph shall not apply to prescription medication prescribed for the employee in the dosages so prescribed by a physician."
How Neblett, Beard & Arsenault Can Help
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's dedicated attorneys are committed to helping Louisiana workers access the workers' compensation benefits they need after on-the-job injuries. To learn more about how we can help with your claim, contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial consultation.
If I'm injured in a work-related car accident, can I receive workers' compensation benefits?
When you're involved in a car accident at work, it can sometimes be difficult to determine what compensation you may be eligible to receive. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to receive both workers' compensation benefits and a civil settlement from the driver at fault.
Requirements to Receive Workers' Compensation Benefits
Workers' compensation benefits cover most Louisiana workers, including part-time, full-time, temporary, and seasonal employees. Coverage starts on the first day of employment, even if the worker is a minor. Notable exceptions to workers' compensation coverage include domestic employees, the majority of real estate salespeople, uncompensated officers and directors of selected non-profit organizations, and public officials.
Workers' compensation benefits cover all work-related duties. If you were involved in a car accident, this includes activities such as:
- Running an errand requested by your boss or employer
- Transporting another employee to a meeting or other work task
- Making deliveries of supplies or products
- Traveling to attend a work-related conference or meeting with a client
- Performing a job that involves driving for a living
- Performing a job that involves traveling for work and has no fixed office location
Typically, you can't receive workers' compensation benefits if the accident occurred during your commute. However, if you were running an errand for your boss or employer before heading into the office and were involved in a car accident, you might be considered eligible for benefits.
Receiving workers' compensation benefits only requires that you be performing job-related tasks at the time of your injury. Therefore, it does not matter whether you were driving a company car or your own personal vehicle at the time of the accident.
Fault is irrelevant in a worker's compensation claim, so you can still receive benefits even if the accident that caused your injuries was the result of your inattentiveness or carelessness. However, you may lose your right to benefits if you don't report the incident to your employer within 30 days. Your employer will complete Louisiana Department of Labor Form 1007 (Employer Report of Injury or Illness) to submit to the Office of Workers' Compensation. You should request a copy of this report for your own records.
Workers' compensation benefits include necessary medical care from the doctor of your choice, indemnity wage benefits, and vocational rehabilitation services if you've suffered an injury that will prevent you from returning to the work you previously performed. Death benefits are paid to spouses and children in the event of a fatal car accident.
Your employer is not allowed to terminate your employment because you've filed for workers' compensation benefits. However, in certain circumstances, your employer may not be required to hold your position open until you are ready to return to work.
Civil Claims for Car Accident Injuries
If you were performing job-related tasks for your employer and the accident was not your fault, you may also have a civil claim against the driver responsible for the incident. If you were partially at fault, you can file a claim for damages, and your settlement will be reduced by your assigned percentage of fault to reflect your own responsibility for your injuries.
If you are eligible to pursue both workers' compensation benefits and a civil claim, it's in your interest to take both types of action. Civil claims can provide payment for property damage, including repairs necessary if you were driving your personal vehicle. Civil claims also provide payment for pain and suffering damages, which can be significant if your injuries resulted in the need for extensive medical treatment and time away from work.
Civil claims can take several months or even years to resolve. Once you receive a settlement, the workers' compensation insurer will have a lien on the funds to seek repayment of the benefits you received for medical care and lost wages. The funds covering other damages are yours to keep.
The Value of Skilled Representation
An experienced workers' compensation attorney can help evaluate the circumstances surrounding your car accident to determine what benefits you may be eligible to receive. Please call the legal team of Neblett, Beard & Arsenault at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review. You can also contact us online for more information.
What are the rules for firing employees who are on workers' compensation?
If you're seeking workers' compensation benefits, you may be wondering if this will affect your employment. Although employers aren't allowed to fire you simply because you've filed for workers' compensation, you can still be legally terminated under certain circumstances.
Retaliatory termination means that your employer has fired you as punishment for seeking workers' compensation benefits. Retaliatory termination is illegal under Louisiana law. Your workers' compensation benefits are a legal entitlement for any workplace injury, even if your own inexperience or carelessness caused the accident.
If you are the victim of a retaliation, you can file a wrongful discharge lawsuit against your employer. However, you must file your claim within one year of the retaliatory action. A wrongful discharge suit can allow you to recover up to one year's worth of lost wages.
Valid Reasons for Termination
Most workers in Louisiana are classified as at-will employees, which means they can quit or be terminated at any time. Some examples of valid reasons your position could be terminated as an at-will employee include:
- There were previous issues with poor performance before your injury.
- You violated an established company policy, such as mishandling confidential information.
- You engaged in misconduct, such as theft or failing a workplace drug screening.
- The company is having financial problems and needs to cut staff.
- The company is being restructured and your position is being eliminated.
If you belong to a labor union, there may be a collective bargaining agreement that specifically outlines the reasons you can be terminated.
If you're a contract employee, you can only be terminated for the reasons listed in your contract. For example, it's common for workers to have a clause in their contract saying they can be terminated if they're unable to work for an extended period of type—such as three to six months. In this case, the employer generally has a legal reason to terminate the contract even if the worker isn't able to return to work due to an injury.
Termination Related to Work Restrictions
Some types of injuries will come with permanent work restrictions. If you have permanent restrictions, the Americans with Disabilities Act requires your employer to make reasonable accommodations to allow you to continue your employment. Examples might include allowing you extra breaks or having an ergonomic workstation that limits the time spent sitting or standing.
If your restrictions prevent you from performing your job entirely, you can be terminated. For example, if your job involves a great deal of heavy lifting and you can no longer lift more than 10 pounds, there is no way to reasonably accommodate your needs. In this case, your termination would make you eligible for vocational retraining and permanent disability payments.
What to Do After a Termination
If you are fired after seeking workers' compensation benefits, you should:
- Inquire about the specific reasons for your termination.
- Ask who made the decision to fire you.
- Request to review your personnel file.
- Negotiate for the highest possible severance package, including the continuation of medical and dental benefits.
- Confirm all promises regarding your severance package in writing.
- Decline any offer that you resign instead of being terminated
It is understandable to be angry about a termination, but it's important to keep calm. Do not act on any negative impulses regarding your employer. Verbal outbursts, physical aggression, or damage caused to company property will only limit your options for legal action against the company.
How Neblett, Beard & Arsenault Can Help
Being fired after filing a workers' compensation claim isn't necessarily illegal, but a termination that occurs shortly after your injury should be viewed with suspicion. If you believe you've been fired in retaliation for accessing your legally entitled workers' compensation benefits, it's in your best interests to consult an experienced attorney immediately.
Please call the experienced legal team of Neblett, Beard & Arsenault at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review. Appointments are available at one of six locations throughout the state. You can also contact us online and we will be certain to be in contact.
What happens if my employer inaccurately claims I’m an independent contractor?
In Louisiana, most employers are protected by workers' compensation law. However, if you are employed as an independent contractor, you are not entitled to workers' compensation benefits.
The law does not protect independent contractors because many of them are self-employed small business owners who work for several different businesses at once. Consequently, some companies intentionally misclassify workers to avoid paying legally required benefits, and it’s become a growing problem in recent years.
Difference Between an Employee and an Independent Contractor
The most obvious difference between an independent contractor and an employee is that an independent contractor does not have taxes taken out of his paycheck and has no access to employer-provided benefits such as retirement plans or health insurance. However, a business can't decide on its own that you are an independent contractor. This is a legal term that has a specific definition based on the nature of your relationship.
You are likely an employee if:
- You have a supervisor who decides when, where, and how you must perform your work.
- You are provided with the tools and supplies necessary to do your work.
- You are provided with training to help you perform your job in a specific way.
- You perform tasks that are a key part of the business, such as being a cook in a restaurant.
- You are evaluated based on how your work is performed.
- You receive a fixed hourly rate or salary for your work.
- Your work is performed on an ongoing basis.
- You have an exclusive relationship with one business.
You are likely an independent contractor if:
- You work with minimal supervision.
- You are expected to provide your own tools and supplies.
- Training is not provided because it is assumed that you either have the necessary skills to do your job or will independently seek out any necessary training.
- Your tasks are not a key part of the core business mission.
- Your performance is measured solely by the quality of your work.
- Your payments are based on your performance, such as being paid a commission for each product sold.
- You were hired for a particular task or project that is temporary in nature.
- You regularly work with more than one business at a time.
Generally, it is assumed that workers are employees unless there is evidence to suggest otherwise. If your employer is trying to inaccurately classify you as an independent contractor to deny access to workers' compensation benefits, you will need to provide any documentation you can find to establish three key elements:
- Financial control. Your employer maintains control over how you are paid and the purchasing of resources necessary to do your job.
- Behavioral control. Your employer controls when you work and how you do your job.
- Nature of relationship. Your relationship is ongoing, and the work you perform is a key part of your employer's business.
Evidence relating to financial control, behavioral control, and the nature of your relationship is looked at as a whole. No one factor is considered more important than the others in determining if you are an employee or an independent contractor.
The Louisiana Workforce Commission has a task force that targets employers who misclassify workers: GAME ON. This acronym stands for Government Against Misclassified Employees Operational Network. Targeted industries include construction, health care, hospitality, personal services, and staffing companies, but all employers who willfully misclassify workers can be fined $1,000 per offense in addition to being forced to provide misclassified workers with their legally required benefits. Employers who misclassify large numbers of employees also risk imprisonment.
The Value of Legal Representation
Although contested minor work related injuries can often be handled without an experienced workers' compensation attorney, any case involving misclassification will require legal representation to protect your rights. Without someone to advocate for your needs, you may end up responsible for your own medical expenses and lost wages.
The legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is committed to maximizing the workers' comp benefits of Louisiana residents who've been hurt on the job. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation case review. Appointments are available at one of six locations throughout the state.
How do I obtain workers' compensation benefits after a heavy lifting injury?
Injuries related to heavy lifting are a primary cause of workers' compensation claims and can affect workers in a wide range of industries. If you've been injured in a heavy lifting accident, it's vital that you understand your right to compensation.
Who Is Vulnerable to Heavy Lifting Accidents?
Lifting injuries can occur in almost every type of occupation. Construction workers often sustain lifting injuries while transporting building materials. Nurses and other healthcare professionals may be hurt trying to lift or reposition immobilized patients. A daycare worker might be injured while pushing a stroller or lifting a child up to wash his hands. A cook might be injured grabbing ingredients from a pantry shelf.
Some of the noted risk factors for heavy lifting injuries include:
- Carrying an object in a way that creates uneven pressure on the spine such as in one hand, on one shoulder, or under one arm
- Not taking adequate rest breaks
- Holding items for a long period of time
- Working in extreme heat or cold, which can induce fatigue
How Much Weight Is Considered Too Heavy for a Worker?
Obviously, people have different levels of physical strength. However, for the purpose of discussing employment-related injury, heavy lifting is defined as a single person lifting an object weighing more than 50 pounds.
A single person should be able to lift an object that weighs less than this amount if it meets all of the following criteria:
- No twisting motion is needed to lift.
- It's at waist height and directly in front of the person doing the lifting.
- It's within seven inches from the front of the person's body.
- The load won’t shift after it's lifted.
- There's a handle on the object.
When an object doesn't meet these criteria, it's recommended that the weight be decreased into several trips or mechanical assistance such as a moving dolly be used for transport. Alternatively, two people could work together to lift the object.
The Most Common Types of Heavy Lifting Injuries
Heavy lifting injuries can vary in severity but may include:
- Back sprains and strains
- Herniated disk
- Patellar tendonitis
- Rotator cuff tear
- Shoulder impingement syndrome
Most injuries are diagnosed by listening to a patient's description of symptoms, conducting a physical examination, and looking at the results of diagnostic tests such as X-rays, MRIs, or an ultrasound.
Physical therapy, braces, and pain-relieving medications may be recommended. Surgery can be required if the pain persists for an extended period of time.
Filing a Workers' Compensation Claim
Most part-time, full-time, seasonal, and temporary workers are covered by workers’ compensation benefits from the first day of their employment. If you've been injured, you should report the incident to a supervisor immediately. Although the law allows you 30 days to report your injury, it's best to file the necessary paperwork as soon as possible. This helps ensure that evidence linking your injury to your place of employment is preserved.
Your notice to your employer should be a written statement outlining the time, date, circumstances, and specific symptoms related to the incident. It should be signed, and you'll want to make a copy for your own records.
Your employer must send a First Report of Injury (LWC-WCIA-1) to its insurance company within 10 days from the time you provide notice of your injury. This form officially begins your claim, which may include medical treatment benefits, temporary total disability benefits, permanent disability benefits, catastrophic injury benefits, and/or vocational assistance.
You are not required to retain an attorney to receive workers' compensation benefits. However, if you are having difficulty accessing your benefits in a timely fashion, an attorney can advocate for your needs and help ensure you receive the compensation necessary to recover from your injuries.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault’s experienced legal team is dedicated to helping Louisiana residents access their workers' compensation benefits. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
After a work injury, what happens if I can't return to my old job?
In the best-case scenario, you receive Louisiana workers' compensation benefits during a short recovery period and then return to work in your old position. However, some types of injuries make it difficult or impossible to handle your previous responsibilities. In these cases, you may qualify for vocational rehabilitation benefits through the workers' compensation program.
Eligibility for Vocational Rehabilitation Benefits
For the purpose of workers' compensation, returning to work is considered one of the following:
- Returning to your previous position
- Returning to a modified version of your previous position
- Returning to a related occupation suited to your education and marketable skills
If these options are not possible, a vocational rehabilitation counselor can help you seek on–the-job training, as well as a minimum amount of retraining or support with self-employment. What vocational training involves will depend on your injury, previous position, and past education.
Labor Market Surveys
A labor market survey is based on the results of a functional capacity evaluation. This is a test administered by a physical therapist who looks at what parts of a job would be difficult for you to perform given the state of your injuries. Some of the specific tasks you're evaluated on include your ability to stand, climb, lift weights, and carry boxes.
Your labor market survey will be prepared by a vocational expert hired by the insurance company. The survey should contain one or more jobs that appear to be compatible with your physical limitations, past education, and current skills as described in your functional capacity evaluation. Locally available jobs must be given priority when compared to positions in a statewide job pool.
It is important to remember that vocational rehabilitation doesn't necessarily have to involve finding an injured worker another job. You can apply for the jobs listed in your labor market survey, but the state can consider vocational rehabilitation accomplished even if you don't find a position within the specified timeframe for receiving benefits. Job placement is not legally required, as long as they've established your wage-earning capacity.
Receiving Additional Training
Vocational rehabilitation is designed to return a worker to employment as soon as possible. You will not be offered retraining opportunities if it is determined that there are suitable jobs already available to you. Retraining is only an option when your injuries have made it impossible to return to your previous employment, and there are no other jobs available that match your education and skill level.
Workers injured on the job who are determined to be eligible for vocational rehab training services can typically receive benefits for up to 26 weeks, with an additional 26-week extension allowed in select cases. However, a request for vocational retraining must be filed within two years from the end date of temporary total disability as determined by the treating physician.
In most cases, retraining programs are provided within the state. If a program requires temporary residence away from the worker's home, the employer or workers' compensation insurer must pay reasonable costs for board, lodging, or travel.
Protecting Your Legal Rights
If your employer won't respond to your request for vocational rehabilitation services or you do not feel as though the services being provided are meeting your needs, you can file a dispute with the state workers’ compensation court. In this case, you'll qualify for an expedited hearing on the matter.
Legal representation isn't required to receive workers' compensation benefits, but having an experienced attorney to advocate for your interests can be valuable when you're experiencing difficulty gaining approval for the appropriate vocational rehabilitation services or if you don’t believe the results of your labor market survey accurately reflect your employment prospects.
The legal team at Neblett, Beard & Arsenault is dedicated to helping Louisiana residents access their workers' compensation benefits. We've worked with both part-time and full-time employees, including those with seriously disabling injuries, in a wide range of industries. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation.
How is my average weekly wage calculated for my workers' compensation benefits?
Knowing your average weekly wage is a crucial part of calculating how much you can expect to receive in workers' compensation benefits.
Figuring Your Gross Wages
For the purpose of workers' compensation claims, the term gross wages is used to refer to the total amount of your pay before deductions—Social Security, state and federal income tax, retirement plans, and health insurance. Taxable fringe benefits such as the payment of some business expenses should also be included in your gross wages.
As a general rule of thumb, gross wages include any type of compensation you're supposed to pay income taxes on or that is transferred into a pre-tax account each pay period.
Calculating Four Weeks of Wages
Your average weekly wage for your workers' compensation benefits is calculated using gross pay from the four full weeks before you were injured.
For a full-time employee, four weeks may be more than four calendar weeks if any of the following apply:
- You were required by your employer to work a reduced schedule.
- You were laid off for all or part of a week.
- You took a full or partial vacation week.
- You were off work due to a holiday.
For most claims, you should not count the week that your accident happened. If you were not able to continue working immediately after your injury, this week does not represent a full week of earnings.
Workers’ compensation benefits generally begin on your first day of employment. If you were hurt at work before you have four weeks of earnings in your new position, your benefits will be calculated based on your expected earnings for a four-week time period.
Special Rules for Workers With Two or More Jobs
In today's economy, many workers are forced to work two or more jobs to make ends meet. If you have more than one employer at the time of your injury, the state will calculate your average weekly wage based on the hourly rate you earned at the job where you suffered the injury. This hourly rate will be multiplied by the total hours you worked in both jobs, up to a maximum of 40 hours per week.
If you were injured at your lower paying job or regularly work more than 40 hours per week between all of your jobs, this method of calculating your average weekly wage will result in reduced benefit eligibility.
Average Weekly Wage for Salaried and Seasonal Employees
If you're paid a salary, calculating your average weekly wage can be done with one of the following calculations:
- (Monthly salary x 12) divided by 52 weeks in a year
- Annual salary divided by 52 weeks in a year
A seasonal worker is someone who regularly works less than 44 weeks per year. This includes workers in professions such as road construction and landscaping as well as those who work in seasonal hospitality positions at pools, amusement parks, and other tourist attractions.
A seasonal worker's average weekly wage is figured by dividing annual earnings by 52 weeks in a year.
Benefit Cap for High Earners
Injured workers employed in high paying professions may not receive benefits based on their entire average weekly wage. The state caps the maximum benefit amount based on an average weekly wage of $876. If your actual earnings are more than this, you'll only receive benefits based on the $876 wage rate.
How to File a Workers' Compensation Claim
Louisiana law allows workers 30 days to report an injury to their supervisor, but it’s best to file the necessary paperwork as soon as possible. Once you make a report to your employer, the company must send a First Report of Injury (LWC-WCIA-1) to the insurance company within 10 days. This step officially begins your worker's compensation claim, including medical treatment and income replacement benefits.
Although you are not required to retain an attorney to receive workers' compensation benefits, an attorney can help communicate with the insurer and advocate for higher benefits in situations where your average weekly wage is called into question. Contact us online or call us directly at 318.588.6303 to learn more.
Can I choose my own doctor to treat my work-related injury?
When you're recovering from a workplace injury, having a doctor you trust is essential. For this reason, Louisiana's workers' compensation law allows injured workers flexibility in selecting a healthcare provider to oversee their treatment.
Choosing a Doctor to Treat Your Workplace Injury
Every state has different rules regarding the choice of doctors for treating a workplace injury. For minor injuries, Louisiana workers' compensation law allows you to choose your own treating doctor and to switch from one specialty to another without needing prior approval from your employer or insurer. This means that you could seek initial care from your regular family doctor and be referred to a specialist without needing approval.
If your injuries are expected to exceed $750 of care, however, your doctor must obtain approval from the workers' compensation insurer to continue treatment unless the treatment is classified as a medical emergency. The insurer is not allowed to withhold consent for treatment without probable cause such as a dispute over whether your injuries are actually work related.
If you receive bills for your medical care related to a workplace injury, they should be forwarded to your employer or your employer's workers' compensation insurer. Do not submit medical bills directly to the Louisiana Office of Workers' Compensation Administration, as this will only delay payment of the claim.
Receiving Initial Care From Your Employer’s Doctor
Some larger employers have a doctor on call to treat injured workers. If you received initial medical care from your employer's doctor, you do not have to continue treatment with this provider. The law allows you to switch to your own doctor, if desired.
Your employer may also provide you with a list of approved doctors to choose from before you begin medical treatment. These doctors will have an established relationship with the insurer and experience in treating the most common workplace injuries. You may choose to see a healthcare provider on this list for your own convenience, but you are not legally required to do so.
If Your Request to Choose Your Own Doctor Is Denied
If your employer denies your request to choose your own doctor to handle your workplace injury, you will want to have your attorney request a hearing before a workers' compensation judge to resolve the issue.
If you are unhappy with the quality of care you received from your first-choice provider, you must obtain prior approval from the workers' compensation insurer before switching to another doctor in the same specialty. No approval is needed if the second doctor practices in a different specialty.
Medical Examinations Requested by Your Employer
Your employer has the option to request that you be examined by a doctor chosen by the company. If you fail to agree to this exam, your payments may be temporarily suspended.
If your doctor and your employer's doctor don't agree regarding the severity of your condition or the proper course of treatment, you may be entitled to an Independent Medical Examination (IME). An IME can be requested by completing Form LWC-WC 1015 and forwarding it to the Medical Services Section of the Office of Workers' Compensation Administration.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault Can Help
Workers' compensation law can be quite complex, and the process of settling your claim can seem overwhelming when you're focused on recovering from your work-related injury. Retaining an experienced workers' compensation attorney to advocate on your behalf can ensure that your case is resolved promptly and that you receive the maximum possible benefits under the law.
If you do not retain an attorney, the workers’ compensation insurance adjuster is typically the party who is making decisions and administering the claim. Since the insurance adjuster’s loyalty is to his employer, these decisions may not truly be in your best interest.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault’s legal team is committed to helping Louisiana residents who've sustained on-the-job injuries resolve their workers' compensation claims. Contact us today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.
How can I maximize my workers’ compensation claim?
Workers' compensation benefits are intended to alleviate some of the strain workers feel when they've been injured on the job. There are specific formulas used to set benefit levels, but you can still take advantage of a few simple tips to maximize your available workers' compensation benefits.
1. Establish a Solid Paper Trail
Workers' compensation benefits have strict documentation requirements, so it's vital that you provide a paper trail to support your case. Report your injury to your supervisor as soon as possible. Fill out all required paperwork completely and honestly.
When you're receiving medical treatment, keep records of expenses for gas, parking, and lodging, so you can be reimbursed at a later date. If your injuries are severe, it can also be helpful to keep an informal journal outlining your symptoms throughout the recovery process.
2. Follow Your Doctor's Orders
Workers' compensation benefits can be denied if the insurer thinks you're faking or exaggerating the severity of your injuries. The best way to avoid this problem is to keep all recommended medical appointments and precisely follow your doctor's treatment plan.
3. Don't Settle Your Claim Any Earlier Than Necessary
Workers' compensation insurers are well aware that many adults don't have sufficient emergency savings. They will often attempt to string you along until you're forced to settle the claim to pay your outstanding bills.
You can increase the value of your benefits by not rushing to settle your case. Use money from savings, sell unwanted items, have your spouse pick up extra hours, or temporarily borrow money from family and friends.
4. Seek Legal Representation as Soon as Possible
Although you don't technically need an attorney to receive workers' compensation benefits, enlisting the services of a skilled attorney ensures that you have someone to advocate for your needs throughout the process. An attorney who is familiar with Louisiana’s workers’ compensation laws can negotiate for the highest possible benefits on your behalf.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault 's experienced legal team is committed to assisting injured workers in accessing their benefits. Please call today to schedule a free, no-obligation case review.