Chances are you have questions about what has happened to you and the legal process. Here are some common questions, along with knowledgeable answers from the attorneys at Connors & Ferris.
Should I hire an attorney now, or wait and see how things go?
Because attorney’s fees are based on awards made to you, there is no disadvantage to hiring an attorney sooner rather than later. In fact, there is a real benefit to hiring a skilled, experienced attorney promptly, as he or she will be in a better position to keep your case on track and avoid common errors that can require significant effort to fix later on in your case.
Our family has an attorney we use for wills and real estate transactions; does it matter if I hire an attorney who does not practice Workers’ Compensation Law or Social Security Disability (SSD) law on a regular basis?
Workers’ Comp and SSD are areas of the law that have unique processes in terms of administration and practice. A lawyer who knows the procedural aspects of areas like workers’ compensation disability claims and social security law will be better able to explain your options, risks and benefits. This experience can assist your case greatly, helping you to potentially achieve your maximum benefit.
I hired an attorney who says they do Workers’ Comp and Social Security Disability, but once I retained them, whenever I call I never get a call back or when I do, it’s always from someone else in the office. Is this normal?
No, and it is not the basis for what Connors & Ferris believe is the foundation of a productive attorney/client relationship. Be wary of attorneys that say they practice Workers’ Compensation or SSD and claim they don’t need to meet with you prior to being retained. This type of practice means you will not likely speak to that attorney until just minutes before your hearing and by then, it’s usually too late to correct errors – if errors need to be corrected.
At Connors & Ferris, once we’ve received your call, you will receive a call back from an attorney as soon as possible. If we can help, we will schedule an appointment and meet with you. We will review your documents, explain the process, answer any questions you may have and then you can retain us knowing that you are in highly experienced, good hands.
Workers’ Compensation FAQs
If I have a partial disability and my employer can’t or won’t accommodate my limitations, do I still have to look for work?
Yes. The Workers’ Compensation Law requires injured workers, capable of working in any capacity, to look for work within their medical limitations. Once you are given limitations, contact your employer to see if they can accommodate you. If they can’t, then file for unemployment benefits, look for work within your limitations and keep very accurate and detailed records of your efforts.
When I go to a hearing, will the Judge represent my interests?
Workers’ Compensation Law Judges are hearing officers employed by New York State that make legal rulings on all aspects of your comp claim and they also render decisions which may, or may not, favor you. Having an attorney who is experienced in workers’ comp is a critical component in protecting your interests and entitlement to benefits.
How long do I have to file a claim for Workers’ Comp and do I have to notify my employer about my injuries?
You have two years to file a comp claim, starting on the date of your injury or on the date your disability began. Some injuries are not the result of a trauma or accident but occur over time. These types of injuries are generally known as “occupational or repetitive stress” injuries. In these cases, a claimant has two years to file a comp claim from the date they became, or should reasonably have become, aware that their condition(s) was related to some aspect of their work.
You must also notify your employer. You have thirty days from the date of an injury (ex. traumatic injury) , or two years from a date of disability (ex. repetitive stress/occupational exposure), to notify your employer in writing that you have sustained an injury causally related to your work.
Can I sue my employer for injuries I sustain at work?
For the vast majority of injured workers, the answer is “NO.” In only very rare and limited situations are injured workers allowed to sue their employer. NYS Workers’ Compensation Law is a “no-fault” insurance system where injured workers are not required to show that someone else is legally responsible for their injury. The Workers’ Compensation Law also provides protections to employers. The greatest benefit to employers is the fact that an injured worker cannot sue them for negligence even if the injured worker could prove negligence in a court of law.
If I get hurt at work, does my employer have to hold my job open or accommodate my disability?
No. New York State is an “employment at will” state which generally means that an employer has discretion to terminate any employee with or without cause. Exceptions to this rule are employers who obligate themselves to either hold an injured worker’s position open, or accommodate an injured worker’s limitations through an employee benefit program (usually outlined in an employee handbook) or through collective bargaining (union) or individual employment contracts. Also, depending on the number of employees, employers may be required to comply with the mandates of FMLA.
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Personal Injury FAQs
How serious do my injuries have to be to sue someone for negligence?
The term “serious injury” has multiple meanings depending on what type of claim it is. No-fault, negligence and malpractice cases all use this term in reference to the underlying cause of action and the definition may shift slightly from case to case. Generally speaking, a serious injury is one that results in fractures, herniation, tears to vertebral discs or any other tendons or ligaments, or permanent systemic injuries. These may or may not require surgery. Generally, injuries resulting in, or likely to result in, permanent disability can be considered a serious injury for the purpose of filing a personal injury claim.
If I settle my personal injury case, do my workers’ comp benefits stop?
There are instances where workers get injured as the result of negligence by a third party (someone other than themselves or their employer) while working. In these cases, an injured worker can have a comp claim as well as a personal injury (negligence, motor vehicle accident or malpractice) case. While the third party case is litigated, you can continue to receive compensation. Once you settle your third party personal injury case, or there is a verdict in your favor, the workers’ compensation insurance company will have a “lien” against your settlement for past payments involving lost wages and medical treatment. Depending upon the net amount of your settlement, the comp carrier may have a “holiday” from a portion of your future payments no greater than the amount of the net settlement.
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Social Security Disability FAQs
If I am receiving comp benefits and then I’m awarded SSD benefits, do I have to let SSD know about my compensation benefits?
Yes. Social Security Disability benefits can be offset by workers’ compensation benefits. Make sure SSD knows you that you are getting compensation benefits and provide them with an up-to-date record of payment from the comp carrier. If you do not advise or otherwise keep SSD up-to-date on your compensation benefits, you may incur an overpayment.
I haven’t worked in the last five years, am I still eligible to receive disability benefits?
This depends on a number of factors. Social Security Disability benefits are dependent, in large part, on your contributions to the Social Security system through payroll deductions over the course of your employment history. The Social Security Administration will determine what date you are insured through and you will need to show, through medical evidence, that you were disabled on or before that date.
If I file a claim, how long will it take to get approved?
It varies. If you file a claim and it is approved on your initial application, then benefits can be awarded within three to six months. If your initial application is denied, then you must file a request for a hearing within 60 days. Hearings generally occur 18 – 22 months after the request for hearing.
Can I work and still receive Social Security Disability (SSD)?
In some instances, yes. If you’ve been granted benefits and then begin working at some point thereafter, you can continue to receive benefits until it has been determined that you are engaging in “substantial gainful activity.” Essentially, the Social Security Administration will grant you an opportunity to work for a period of time before stopping your benefits in the event that your attempt is unsuccessful due to your disability.
I’m not considered totally disabled by my doctor, but I have significant physical and mental impairments. Should I apply for Social Security Disability?
If you have been out of work for twelve consecutive months and you still have substantial medical limitations inhibiting your ability to work, then you should file a claim. While in many instances you do not need to demonstrate that you are “totally disabled,” you must be able to show that you are not performing substantial and gainful activity and that you are incapable of performing work that is reasonably available in the national economy. Distinguishing this standard necessarily requires consideration of factors other than disability such as past work experience, level of education, age, etc.
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