Frequently Asked Questions About Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation
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What should I do if I’ve been hurt at work?
If you are injured at your job in Montana, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to pay your medical bills and your wages while you are off work recovering from your injuries. Montana’s workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, which means that you could be entitled to benefits regardless of who caused your accident or occupational illness. However, you need to take certain steps to protect your rights to these benefits.
Steps You Should Take Following a Workplace Accident in Montana
You need to take steps soon after your accident to fulfill your duties under Montana’s workers’ compensation laws and to strengthen your claim if there a dispute with your employer’s insurance company—which frequently happens. Here are crucial first steps that you should take:
- Seek immediate medical care. If you know that you suffered an injury, you should seek immediate medical care to protect your health. Even if you do not believe that you were injured, you should be examined by a doctor promptly because some symptoms of injuries can take days or longer to develop.
- Report your injuries. You are required to report your workplace injuries to your supervisor within 30 days. While you can report it orally, it is best to do so in a written notice or email. You should provide as many details as possible. Keep a copy of the notice for your records. The sooner that you notify your supervisor of your accident and injuries, the stronger your workers’ compensation claim will be.
- File your claim. In order to receive workers’ compensation benefits, you must complete a First Report of Injury (FROI) and file it with your workers’ compensation insurance company or the Department of Labor and Industry. It must be written, signed, and filed within one year of an injury or illness. The insurer must decide whether to accept or deny your claim within 30 days of receipt of it.
- Retain an experienced attorney. To ensure that you comply with Montana’s workers’ compensation laws and receive the benefits that you deserve, you should retain an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible. He can advise you of your rights and negotiate your settlement with your employer’s worker’s compensation insurance company.
Did you suffer serious injuries or occupational illness at your job? Attorney Lucas Foust at the Foust Law Office is here to answer your questions about your rights and guide you through the process of filing your claim. To get started, fill out our online form to schedule your free, no-obligation consultation.
My employer was negligent, can I receive any money for my pain and suffering?
Workers Compensation benefits are limited to those benefits laid out under the statute. Montana law does not allow for compensation for pain and suffering and emotional distress. Over the past 30 years, workers compensation benefits have been dramatically reduced.
Can I be retrained for other work?
Yes, you may be eligible for vocational benefits under Section 39-71-1003, MCA. Under Montana law, an injured worker may be eligible for up to 104 weeks of TTD benefits as well as payment of in-state tuition at one of the state’s universities or vocational programs.
In addition, the workers compensation insurance carrier may be required to pay for books and moving expenses. An injured worker must make this request within 78 weeks after reaching Maximum Medical Improvement.
What can I do if my employer does not have Workers Compensation insurance?
If your employer does not have Workers Compensation insurance, you are entitled to receive workers compensation benefits through the Uninsured Employer’s Fund (UEF).
You are entitled to the same benefits as other workers whose employers have Workers Compensation insurance. However, because your employer broke the law and did not provide you with mandatory coverage, you may bring a separate civil lawsuit, separate from your claim with the UEF.
If I am not a U.S. citizen, can I still apply for workers' compensation benefits?
Yes, you are still eligible for Workers Compensation benefits, even if you are here in this country illegally. Our office has represented a number of undocumented workers who were eligible for workers' compensation benefits.
How long can I receive medical benefits?
A claimant can only obtain medical benefits for a period of 60 months after the date of the injury or diagnosis. This limitation is set out under Section 39-71-704(f), MCA. This 60-month limitation can be waived by the Department of Labor and Industry and does not apply if the injured worker is permanently totally disabled. A claimant who is permanently totally disabled will continue to receive medical benefits as long as he or she is considered permanently totally disabled.
What do I do if I cannot return to the same type of work I was doing when I was injured?
Injured workers in Montana may be eligible for Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits under Section 39-71-703, MCA and vocational benefits under Section 39-71-1003, MCA. There are certain criteria that must be met before the claimant is eligible for benefits under these statutes. To be eligible for benefits under Section 39-71-703, MCA, an injured worker must show that he or she is unable to return to the time of injury job and has realized an actual wage loss, and suffered an injury qualifying for an impairment rating. An injured worker who meets these criteria will be eligible for either wage loss compensation of less than $2 per hour or wage loss compensation greater than $2 per hour. Once these criteria are determined, a claimant’s entitlement to compensation can be figured using a formula which considers the impairment rating, amount of wage loss, and lifting restrictions. These benefits can be paid out on a bi-weekly basis or in a lump sum.
My workers comp claim has been denied, what do I do? Do I have to hire a lawyer?
If your claim has been denied, you can appeal the insurance carrier’s decision to the Montana Department of Labor and Industry (DLI). Under Montana law, the DLI has jurisdiction over workers compensation disputes until a mediator from the DLI has rendered his or her recommendation.
A claim cannot be filed with the Workers Compensation Court until this process has been completed. You do not have to have a lawyer to complete the mediation process. The mediator’s recommendation is not binding and merely begins the process of a worker’s compensation claim.
What compensation do I receive if I cannot work?
If you have been injured at work and are unable to return to work, you are likely entitled to Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits under Section 39-71-701, MCA. TTD benefits are calculated by taking the workers four previous pay periods and determining the Average Weekly Wage (AWW). Once the AWW is determined, the TTD rate is calculated multiplying the AWW by 2/3. Tax deductions are not withheld from the TTD funds received by the injured employee. These benefits are paid on a bi-weekly basis.
How do my medical bills get paid?
If your claim has been accepted, or accepted on a conditional basis under Section 39-71-615, MCA, your medical benefits will be paid by the workers compensation insurance carrier. You will be provided a workers compensation claim number which you can provide to the health care provider. The provider will pay the provider directly.