It’s bad enough if you injure yourself at work once – what happens if you do it a second time? Let’s take a look at various scenarios so you’ll have an idea of what your rights are if you encounter this unfortunate situation.
Let’s say that two years ago, you injured your neck unloading a pallet while working for a company that we’ll call Smith. You collected workers’ compensation benefits for three months, underwent an MRI to your neck, received some physical therapy, and went back to work. Because you returned to your regular job earning the same money that you were at the time of your injury, your workers’ compensation benefits were suspended. Aside from experiencing some occasional achiness to your neck, your neck was okay, and you were able to do your job. After a year, you obtained another job with another employer, which we’ll call Miller, doing similar work that involves a lot of lifting and carrying.
Then, after working a few months for Miller, you injure your neck again, this time while pulling some boxes off a conveyor belt. You felt the same symptoms that you did after your first injury. You saw a doctor, who took you out of work because of your neck injury.
You put in a claim for workers’ compensation benefits through Miller, but the insurance company denied it on the basis that your neck symptoms are related to your prior injury with Smith. You responded by submitting a claim against Smith, but its insurance company issued a denial, contending that you sustained a new injury while working for Miller. It sounds crazy, but this scenario happens sometimes – two insurance companies each deny a claim, pointing their fingers at each other, while the injured worker cannot work and has no money coming in.
In this scenario outlined above, we would file a Petition against both Smith and Miller. At the first hearing before the workers’ compensation judge, our lawyer will make a motion, asking the judge to order the two insurance companies to split the payment of your workers’ compensation benefits, and let them fight it out as to which one ultimately is responsible. If the judge grants this motion, at least you will have money coming in while your workers’ compensation case proceeds.
It depends a lot on how the doctors diagnose the injuries you sustained as a result of the first incident at work and the second incident at work and the results of the diagnostic studies that you underwent after both injuries. If the MRI’s of your neck were essentially the same after you hurt yourself at Smith and following your reinjury at Miller, it’s likely that the judge will find that you sustained a “recurrence,” and pin liability on Smith. But let’s say that since your injury at Miller, you have felt pain radiating down your right arm to your fingers that you did not feel after you injured yourself at Smith, and your newer MRI shows nerve damage not present on your original MRI, the judge may be inclined to find that you sustained a “new injury” at Miller and make them the party responsible for paying your workers’ compensation benefits – both lost wages and payment of medical bills.
Suppose that after your injury at Smith, you entered into a settlement of your workers’ compensation case (called a Compromise and Release), as a result of which you agreed you would not file any future claims arising from the injury you sustained at Smith. You will not be able to file a Petition against Smith, even if your doctor thinks you sustained a recurrence of your injury at Smith; your only option will be to file a Petition against Miller.
If you find yourself in a predicament like this – or any other situation involving a workers’ compensation claim – we urge you to contact Pearson Koutcher Law. One of our experienced lawyers with expertise in workers’ compensation law will meet with you, advise you of your rights, and represent you in your claim.
Whether you injure yourself at work for the first time or sustain a second work injury, don’t delay. Contact Pearson Koutcher Law and set up a meeting with one of our workers’ compensation lawyers.
Let us put our decades of experience to work for you, helping you navigate the complexities of the Workers’ Compensation laws.