Workers Compensation Questions
If I’m in an accident at work, what do I do?
The first thing you need to do is report the accident to any supervisor in writing that you have been injured. This notice must be given to your employer within 15 days of the accident. Your employer should have a poster posted in a conspicuous place that has notice of accident forms stapled to it. Go to this poster and pull off a notice of accident form. The form will ask for the date of accident, a description of the accident, and have a line for you to sign. Fill it out, and then take it to any supervisor and ask the supervisor to sign it. Be sure to keep a copy of the notice form.
If you cannot find the notice of accident form, take a blank piece of paper and write at the top “Notice of Accident” and write down the date of the accident and a description of the accident. Sign it, make a copy to keep for yourself, and then give it to a supervisor.
Keep your copy of the notice of accident form in a safe place. You may need it later to prove you gave your employer notice of the accident.
Contact your attorney with workers compensation questions.
IMPORTANT: If you do not give written notice of the accident within 15 days, your claim for benefits may be barred.
The second thing you need to do is seek medical care for your injuries.
Am I entitled to medical care for my injuries?
Yes. The New Mexico Workers Compensation Act provides that you are entitled to all reasonably necessary medical care for your work-related injuries.
If you are in need of emergency medical care, you should go to the emergency room or urgent care immediately.
Regarding follow-up i.e. nonemergency medical care, when you give your employer notice of the accident, you should ask your employer for instructions on where to obtain follow-up medical care for your injuries. Your employer is required to notify you in writing either that your employer will initially direct your medical care, i.e. tell you where to go for follow-up medical care, or tell you that you are free to see a doctor of your own choice.
If your employer instructs you to see a particular doctor, you are required to obtain your medical care through that doctor for at least 60 days. After seeing your employer’s doctor for 60 days, you have a right to transfer your care to a doctor of your own choosing. If your employer initially tells you that you are free to see a doctor of your own choice, then you yourself should choose a doctor to see. You are entitled to see the doctor for 60 days, afterwards your employer has the right to transfer your medical care to a doctor of the employers choosing.
If you have questions regarding medical care, please feel free to call. I will be happy to review your particular situation.
Am I entitled to money benefits for time I miss from work?
Yes. If you are unable to perform your job duties because of your injury, are under a doctors care, and are healing up from your injuries, then you are entitled to temporary total disability benefits. The amount you are entitled to is 66 two thirds of your average weekly wage. You’re not entitled to these benefits during the first week you were disabled but if your disability lasts longer than 30 days, you are entitled to receive the first week of benefits at that time.
If you think you’re entitled to disability benefits because you have missed time from work but are not being paid those benefits, I will be happy to review your case to determine if you’re entitled to additional benefits.
If my injury is permanent, am I entitled to permanent disability benefits?
Yes. If you suffer a permanent physical impairment as a result of a work injury, you are entitled to permanent disability benefits. For most people, the maximum period for entitlement for disability benefits (both temporary and permanent) is 500 weeks. For people with disability ratings greater than 80%, the maximum period is 700 weeks.
The disability rating you are given depends on your impairment rating and whether you are able to return to work earning wages equal to or greater than your pre-injury wage. If you are able to return to work earning pre-injury wages despite your impairment, then your disability is based upon a mathematical formula which adds points to the impairment rating. Generally speaking, the older you are, the less education you have, the lower the skill level of the jobs you’ve held, and the greater the loss of physical capacity due to the accident, the higher the disability rating will be.
If you are given an impairment or disability rating that you think may be too low, your workers compensation attorney should review it to determine if it has been correctly calculated.
What’s involved in filing a claim for benefits with the New Mexico Workers Compensation Administration?
A workers compensation complaint form must be filled out with the New Mexico Workers Compensation Administration. After the claim is filed, a mediation conference will be held to see if issues in the case can be resolved without a trial. The mediation conference usually occurs within 2 months of the claim being filed. If the claim cannot be resolved, then the case will be assigned to a judge and set for trial. Trials are usually held from 6 months to 1 year, sometimes longer, after the mediation conference. In between the mediation conference and the trial, the parties are allowed to take depositions of witnesses and serve discovery requests on the other party.
IMPORTANT: If you do not file your complaint within one year of the date your employer or insurance company failed or refused to pay benefits, your claim for benefits may be barred.
If your workers compensation attorney thinks they can recover benefits that the employer or insurance carrier are filing or refusing to pay you, they handle all aspects of the litigation at the Workers Compensation Administration from filing the complaint to the trial. Rod Dunn is recognized as a specialist in workers compensation law and has been handling workers compensation cases for 30 years. He will only charge a fee for service if he successfully settles or wins your workers compensation case at trial.
What’s involved in hiring a workers comp attorney?
You can hire an attorney to represent you in a workers compensation case, i.e. handle the case from start to finish. You hire an attorney by signing a retainer agreement. For clients that hire Rod Dunn, Mr. Dunn charges a fee only if he successfully recovers additional benefits the employer or insurance company has failed or refused to pay you by either winning or settling your case. If Mr. Dunn successfully recovers benefits for you, the fee you will be charged is usually set by the Workers Compensation Judge. Regardless of the amount the Judge awards Mr. Dunn in fees, Mr. Dunn’s retainer agreement provides that the maximum amount you will be personally responsible for is 33% of the benefits recovered. There’s no fee if Mr. Dunn does not recover additional benefits for you.