Did you or a loved one suffer a catastrophic injury at work?
Unfortunately, work-related injuries can happen even in the safest of workplaces. Most of the time, an injury is minor enough that you will eventually heal and return to your job duties.
But this isn’t always the case.
Some serious injuries make it impossible for you to continue working, or you may be forced to choose a different career that is better suited to your new limitations. When this happens, you may experience a sudden loss in your earning potential that impacts your ability to continue in your current lifestyle.
Fortunately, workers’ compensation is meant to help employees navigate through this difficult time with the financial support they need to take care of the needs that arise from their injury. However, it’s important to go into the process of filing and defending your claim with your eyes wide open. Coverage for a life-altering injury is expensive, and insurers have an incentive to try to limit how much compensation is approved when an injury happens.
In such situations, hiring an Arizona workers’ compensation attorney who specializes in catastrophic injuries at work is vital to ensuring you get the full and fair amount owed to you.
What is a catastrophic injury?
“Catastrophic” injuries tend to require expensive medical treatments, along with special accommodations to be made to your home or vehicle. Due to the severity of this type of injury, your loved ones may also be impacted. Your spouse or family members may have to take a leave of absence from work to care for you, or you may need a permanent home caregiver.
A catastrophic injury could apply to many different bodily harms. For example, a loss of a limb such as an arm or leg (amputation) is generally considered a catastrophic injury. Likewise, traumatic brain injuries can also be classified as catastrophic if they permanently alter a person’s ability to think, speak or reason clearly enough to function in the workplace.
A catastrophic injury at work can also include spinal cord injuries that cause paraplegia or quadriplegia. Certain eye injuries that cause total or partial blindness, serious burns to the body and organ damage are a few other common examples of catastrophic injuries.
If you suffer an injury that your doctor says is lifelong or could limit your work capacity, then you need to consider the possibility that it is considered “catastrophic.”
What types of compensation are available for catastrophic work injuries?
Workers’ compensation benefits can help pay for many essential needs after a catastrophic work-related injury. You can generally expect benefits to help cover the cost of your short and long-term medical care, which can be overwhelmingly expensive for a life-threatening injury that impacts your spine, brain or other critical parts of your body.
With catastrophic injuries, you may have lifetime care needs that your workers’ compensation benefits should help you to afford. In addition, since you likely will not be able to return to your former job, permanent disability benefits become an option. Disability benefits pay a portion of your lost wages to help you continue to support yourself and your family.
The exact amount of compensation you’re owed for a catastrophic work injury will vary depending upon your unique situation.
How are permanent disability benefits determined?
With a catastrophic injury, figuring out how much your claim is worth can be difficult. This is because there isn’t always a set amount for what you’ll receive. What’s more, the Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA) divides permanent impairment claims into 2 main categories:
- Scheduled injury. This type of catastrophic injury is one that is already included within the state’s workers’ compensation laws. Typically, this includes the types of injuries that you might expect to see in the workplace such as those affecting the hands, feet, legs or arms. A scheduled injury has a set standard amount used to estimate your disability benefits. For most cases, the total loss of a scheduled body part is compensated at 55 percent of your regular wage. In a catastrophic situation where you cannot return to your work duties, this amount can increase to up to 75 percent of your average monthly wages.
- Unscheduled Injury. There are some injuries that are harder to define since the damage can vary from one person to another. These injuries are not listed on the schedule and are instead determined by factors such as whether or not you’ll be able to return to work or find an equivalent career based upon your new abilities. Many catastrophic injuries fall under this category. If yours does, then your benefits are determined by calculating the difference between your previous earning capacity and your expected capacity for earning following your injury and expected course of healing.
Both types of permanent impairment claims are paid on a monthly basis, take approximately 90 days from the issuance of the notices by the insurance carrier and are reviewed each year.
Can an Arizona workers’ comp lawyer help me get maximum benefits?
A workers’ compensation catastrophic injury claim often turns into a lengthy and confusing process. Getting benefits approved for a short-term disability is hard enough, and you could face even more challenges once you start talking about long-term compensation for expensive medical care and lost wages. Your catastrophic injury might also fall outside of the scheduled guidelines for compensation, which leaves more room for you to receive less compensation than what you need to cover your care.
The long-term consequences of a catastrophic injury are devastating, and your health, wellbeing and livelihood may be on the line. You might not even know what the future holds yet as you begin the claim process. This is why it’s vital to seek help from a competent professional who has experience helping people get the benefits that they deserve.
Our Arizona workers’ compensation attorneys are experienced in catastrophic injury cases. We can help you identify a fair amount that fully covers your losses and put together documentation that demonstrates why you need a certain level of benefits.