Jackson Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
The Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Law was enacted by the Mississippi legislature in 1948 to guarantee the payment of medical expenses and wage loss benefits to persons injured on the job. The law established the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) in Jackson to supervise and monitor claims, and it required almost all employers in the state to carry workers’ compensation insurance or self-insure to cover accidents, injuries and illnesses that may occur on the job.
Despite the law mandating coverage and protection for workers injured on the job, insurance companies today continue to put up roadblocks and obstacles to injured workers in their quest for benefits. When you’re hurting because of an on-the-job injury, you shouldn’t have to be further saddled with the burden and stress of making sure your benefits are paid. That’s why we are here. At Lunsford, Baskin & Priebe PLLC, our Jackson workers’ compensation lawyers practice exclusively in the area of workers’ comp, and our only goal is to make sure you get the medical care and benefits you need and are entitled to under the law. Learn more about Mississippi workers’ compensation below, and call our office in Jackson for help with a claim or denial.
Are all workers covered by workers’ compensation in Mississippi?
Nearly so. The law requires all employers with five or more employees to cover their employees with workers’ compensation insurance or be self-insured. Smaller employers can also provide workers’ compensation coverage, although they are not required to by law. Also, the law only covers employees and not independent contractors, although employees of subcontractors do receive special protection for on-the-job injuries. Domestic workers, farm laborers and non-profit employees are also excluded from coverage. Other workers, such as federal employees, transportation workers and maritime workers, have their own federal workers’ compensation systems and are not part of the Mississippi workers’ compensation law.
Unlike in some other states, Mississippi workers don’t have to survive some probationary period or earn a specific minimum salary to be eligible. Mississippi workers’ comp covers eligible workers from day one.
What types of accidents or injuries are covered?
Mississippi workers’ compensation law covers any injury that arises out of the course and scope of employment. This includes all job-related occupational illness and disease, and not just traumatic accidents such as ladder falls or machinery malfunctions. A work-related death is also compensable with workers’ comp benefits. At Lunsford, Baskin & Priebe PLLC, our Mississippi workers’ compensation lawyers handle a variety of different types of claims for injured workers, including:
- Back, Neck & Spine Injury
- First Responder illnesses such as cancer or heart and lung disease
- Shoulder & Knee Injury
It should be obvious when an injury or illness arises out of the course and scope of employment, but this is actually one of the main areas that workers’ comp carriers will put into dispute. They have many ways of claiming your injury is not work-related, forcing you to prove your case before an administrative law judge or in court.
What sorts of benefits does Mississippi workers’ compensation provide?
The two broad categories of workers’ comp benefits are medical expenses and wage replacement:
Medical expenses – Workers’ comp should pay for all costs that are reasonable and necessary to treat injury and achieve maximum cure. These expenses include doctor and hospital bills, nursing services, medical supplies, prescriptions, physical therapy, and rehabilitation services. Workers’ comp also pays mileage reimbursement for your travel to and from your medical visits.
Wage replacement – Wage loss benefits equal two-thirds of your average weekly wage, subject to a maximum weekly amount and time limits. You can earn these temporary disability payments while you are under the continuing care of a doctor and unable to work or make your full pay. In total, you can receive up to the maximum weekly amount times 450. In 2019, the weekly maximum is $494.48, which comes out to a lifetime disability maximum of $222,516.
Once you have reached maximum cure or improvement, either your benefits will terminate, or you may be considered permanently disabled. For permanent disability, you can receive wage replacement benefits for up to 450 weeks. For permanent partial disability, such as the loss of a body part, you’ll be paid a certain amount for a specific number of weeks according to a schedule established by the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission in Jackson.
Workers’ Compensation Claims Process
A poster at your workplace tells you who to notify in case of a workplace accident, injury or illness. The poster may make it seem like all you do is make a call, and the rest is taken care of for you from there. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. Workers’ compensation claims have many pitfalls and traps along the way that can result in your claim being denied or underpaid, or your benefits terminated early.
If you want to take the stress and worry off your shoulders so you can focus on getting better without hassling over your benefits, call the workers’ compensation attorneys at Lunsford, Baskin & Priebe PLLC. We help injured workers in Jackson, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana, and workers’ compensation is all we do. Our dedicated, professional team can advise and represent you at every stage of the workers’ compensation process, helping you get your benefits fully paid sooner rather than later.
What are the steps to getting workers’ compensation benefits?
Generally speaking, your workers’ compensation claim will go through the following process:
Notify Employer – After any workplace accident or injury, or if you have been diagnosed with an occupational disease, you should notify your employer as soon as possible. This notification will likely either be to your supervisor or to a person designated by the company to receive workers’ compensation notices. Both Mississippi and Louisiana require that you report the accident within 30 days, but the sooner you notify your boss, the sooner the claims process will get rolling.
Employer Files Claim – Once the employer is notified, the state and the company’s insurance carrier will be notified. In Mississippi, the employer files with the Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC) in Jackson and also notifies its workers’ comp carrier. In Louisiana, the employer files a First Report of Injury with the insurer, and the insurer submits a claim to the Louisiana Workforce Commission.
Appeal to Agency – In the best-case scenario, you will soon start to receive wage replacement benefits, and the insurer will cover your medical bills. If there is a dispute and benefits are not being paid, you may need to file a claim with the WCC or Workforce Commission. In Mississippi, you have two years from the injury to file a claim with the WCC to appeal a denial by the insurer. This process is started by filing a petition to controvert. In Louisiana, the statute of limitations is one year for a wage dispute, or one year or three years for a dispute over medical coverage.
Appeal to Court – Filing an appeal will lead to a hearing before an administrative law judge. In Mississippi, you can appeal the judge’s order by appealing to the Full Commission within 20 days. The Full Commission may review records filed by the parties, or it may hold another hearing. If dissatisfied with the Full Commission result, you have 30 days to appeal to Circuit Court or the Mississippi Supreme Court if you choose. In Louisiana, you can appeal a decision of the administrative law judge to the Circuit Court of Appeal within 30 days.
The further you go in the workers’ compensation process, the more technical and complicated the steps become, and the more critical it is to have an experienced workers’ comp lawyer representing you. Retaining a lawyer sooner may help you get your benefits sooner, and it will also cost less to resolve your claim without having to go to court. Our dedicated workers’ comp lawyers can help you at any and every stage of the workers’ compensation process in Mississippi and Louisiana.
How Workers’ Compensation Claims Get Denied
It’s reasonable to expect that if you’ve been hurt on the job, your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance will kick in and cover your medical expenses and lost wages. Unfortunately, it doesn’t always work like that. Many times, workers are shocked to hear that their injury is not being covered. Just because your claim was denied, that doesn’t mean you aren’t entitled to benefits. What it does mean, though, is that you are going to have to fight to get those benefits paid. You don’t have to do this alone, however. The workers’ compensation attorneys at Lunsford, Baskin & Priebe PLLC in New Orleans and Jackson will stand up for you and appeal your denial through the proper channels. If the insurer’s denial was wrong, we’ll make it right, so that you can get the benefits you need and deserve after a workplace injury in Mississippi or Louisiana.
Why are workers’ compensation claims denied?
Your claim may get denied for something as simple as not filling out your application completely or failing to inform your employer promptly after the accident. Other reasons your claim could be denied include the following:
The injury was not work-related – A compensable injury has to happen in the course and scope of employment. The insurer may claim your accident occurred while you were off-duty, goofing off or that the injury didn’t occur at the workplace at all.
The injury was pre-existing – A common basis for denial is that you had a pre-existing condition that is the true source of your ailment. When this isn’t the case, we can help you prove it by producing medical records from before and after the accident and introducing evidence of your lifestyle before the accident. If a workplace injury aggravated a pre-existing condition, you might be entitled to compensation for aggravation of the condition.
Intoxication or willful intent – In Mississippi, employers can deny a workers’ comp claim if the employee was intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of the injury. This includes the abuse of legally prescribed medications as well as using illegal drugs. Claims can also be denied if the accident was caused by “willful intent.”
You are an independent contractor – Workers’ compensation in Louisiana and Mississippi only covers employees and not independent contractors. Lots of times, however, workers are misclassified as independent contractors when they are really employees. Employers misclassify workers by mistake or intentionally to avoid paying minimum wage, overtime, or workers’ compensation. Unless you know for a fact that you are an independent contractor, it may be worthwhile to call our office for a free consultation if your claim has been denied for this reason.
So, what do I do if my claim is denied?
The insurer’s denial of your workers’ comp claim is never the final word. There are many steps you can take to appeal a denial. In Mississippi, you can petition for a hearing with an Administrative Law Judge or appeal to the Workers’ Compensation Commission. From there, you can appeal to Circuit Court or directly to the Mississippi Supreme Court. Not only may you obtain benefits that are due to you, but you may also be entitled to other money damages, including punitive damages, if the denial was in bad faith.
In Louisiana, you can request a formal hearing with the Office of Workers’ Compensation. A Disputed Claim for Compensation must be filed with the OWC within one year from the accident. A Disputed Claim for Medical Treatment must be filed within one year of the injury or three years from your last payment if you were receiving medical payments that were cut off.
Dedicated, Professional Legal Help with Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Matters
Knowing what the law requires is one thing; standing up to the insurance carrier when they deny your claim or cut off your benefits prematurely is another. Our professional, dedicated team has years of experience practicing exclusively in the area of workers’ compensation law. We’ll take on the task of making sure you get your benefits promptly and fully paid, including appealing claim denials if necessary. For help with a Mississippi workers’ compensation claim, call the Jackson workers’ compensation lawyers at Lunsford, Baskin & Priebe PLLC in Jackson for a free consultation at 601-203-4552.