What does it cost to hire an attorney?
Nothing. In Rhode Island, if the Attorney is successful in obtaining workers' compensation benefits for the employee or some other benefit through the Worker's Compensation Court, the insurance carrier is ordered to pay the Attorney a counsel fee. If the Attorney is unsuccessful, the Attorney is simply not paid. This fee is separate and apart from the employee's benefits. In Rhode Island, if you settle your case, the fee is typically 20% of the settlement amount.
Can I sue my employer if I get hurt?
In Rhode Island, No. (unless you reserved your common law rights when you were hired or in several other limited exceptions). Rhode Island law requires any employer with at least one employee to maintain workers' compensation insurance to cover work related injuries and all injury claims must be put through this insurance.
What type of benefits am I entitled to?
Injured workers are entitled to weekly compensation checks as well as the payment of the medical expenses associated with the injury. An employee may also be entitled to specific compensation such as for scarring or the loss of use of a body part.
Can I choose my own doctor(s)?
An injured employee has the freedom to initially choose the doctor with whom they wish to treat for their work related injuries. Furthermore, this initial medical provider can refer the employee to another physician or medical provider for a consultation, assessment or for specific treatment without obtaining prior approval from the Workers' Compensation carrier. However, if an employee wishes to switch from this initial physician after two (2) or more treatment sessions, the employee will be limited to those medical providers listed on the Workers' Compensation carrier's Preferred Provider Network (PPN) list. Treatment with physicians not listed on the PPN list will require prior approval from the Workers' Compensation carrier. Keep in mind that this two-visit rule does not apply to an emergency room physician or a medical provider in a contractual relationship with the employer.
Why should I contact an attorney when my employer is paying for my medical expenses and my lost wages while I am out of work?
This is one of the employer's biggest tricks in avoiding a workers' compensation claim. In Rhode Island, employers can pay you and your medical expenses for 13 weeks without assuming liability for your injury. However, what is extremely important for the employee is the possibility of future medical expenses associated with the injury. If an employee does not file a claim with the Court within two years following the injury, you cannot file a claim to memorialize your injury. This is vital, for example, if you need surgery more than two years after your injury and you do not have health insurance.
Can I recover any money for pain and suffering?
No, the Rhode Island Workers' Compensation Act does not provide for pain and suffering.
My injury did not happen on one particular day, but developed over time. Could I collect workers' compensation benefits?
Yes. The Workers' Compensation Act provides for such injuries otherwise known as Occupational Diseases (OD). There are numerous OD injuires covered under Rhode Island law, but carpel tunnel syndrome and hernias are most common. Proving whether an employee has suffered an Occupational Disease injury is more compicated than most physical injuries.