Helping Workers Navigate Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation is a system that provides benefits to injured workers or those who contract an occupational disease while working. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (2009), the median number of days away from work for nonfatal occupational injury and illness was eight days.
Occupations that have seen an increased rate of workers’ compensation claims include light or delivery service truck drivers, landscapers and groundskeepers, restaurant cooks and registered nurses.
Young Conaway Stargatt & Taylor, LLP, attorneys regularly appear before the Industrial Accident Board (IAB), which handles workers’ comp claims in Delaware, on behalf of injured workers. We have won numerous million-dollar resolutions for our clients in settlement, mediation, arbitration and trial.
What Injuries Are Covered
In Delaware, workers’ compensation will pay for your lost wages while you are out of work (up to 66 percent tax-free, subject to a maximum). Your medical bills, prescription medications, doctor visits, x-rays, physical therapy, chiropractic, etc. and the mileage for medical-related travel can also be reimbursed.
When you return to work after your injuries, if you were forced to return to a lower-paying job, you can recover Loss of Earning Capacity (LOEC) benefits. Disfigurement and permanent impairment benefits for loss of function (partial or total) of an injured body part can also be covered under Delaware’s workers’ compensation laws.
If You Are Injured at Work
You should immediately tell your supervisor and personnel office about the injury and ask that a report be filed with the state. Be specific as to what happened. Do not wait.
See your doctor or go to the emergency room as soon as possible. Make sure you tell the doctor, nurses and anyone else who takes care of you that you were injured at work. Provide details as to what caused your injury and make sure you identify all body parts injured in the work accident, not just the one that hurts the most. Remember, you are entitled to see your own doctor rather than one selected by your employer.
If you have a note to be off work, provide a copy to your employer and give your attorney the original.
Commonly Asked Questions About Workers’ Compensation
Below are some answers to the most common questions that we receive regarding workers’ compensation at our office. If you need more answers beyond what is provided here, please reach out to us so that we can give you additional assistance with a free consultation.
How is workers’ compensation calculated in Delaware?
The amount of benefits you may receive through workers’ compensation is set by a formula that is updated annually. The formula looks at your average wage for the last 26 weeks and gives you exactly two-thirds of that so long as it is within the maximum and minimum amounts available.
The formula for the maximum weekly benefit is exactly two-thirds of the average weekly wage in the state. The average weekly wage is $1,234.04; the maximum weekly benefit that can be claimed under it is $822.70, while the minimum weekly benefit is $274.24. An example of this is if your average weekly wage over the last 26 weeks were $1,000, then you would be entitled to $666.67 because this is exactly two-thirds of your normal wage. It falls squarely within the minimum and maximum benefits you can claim.
Why do I need an attorney for my workers’ compensation claim?
Put simply, the workers’ compensation system is complicated. You need to keep track of many deadlines as you are going through the process, information that you need to supply to the state, and a host of other problems that can arise, especially if you make a mistake as you are going through the process. Mistakes can lead to lengthy delays in obtaining your benefits, so the best way to avoid these issues is to work with an attorney that understands the system and can guide you through it smoothly.
How long can I be on workers’ compensation in Delaware?
The length of time that you can be on workers’ compensation depends on the type of injury that you sustained, and all of these are set out in Delaware Code § 2326. For a simple injury such as the loss of a nonprimary toe, the most that you can remain on benefits is 15 weeks. However, for a much more severe injury such as the loss of a limb, you can potentially receive up to 250 weeks of benefits. The exact number you are eligible for varies greatly depending on your situation, so it is imperative that you speak with an attorney who can assess your situation and provide you with the appropriate information.
Am I eligible for workers’ compensation in Delaware?
Generally, most people are eligible for workers’ compensation as long as they are classified as employees, not independent contractors. Some select categories of employees do not qualify for workers’ compensation because they fall under alternative benefits systems, such as agricultural workers, government employees, and other industry-specific positions. Every employer in Delaware must obtain workers’ compensation insurance, so you are most likely eligible if you do not fall into one of the niche categories above or are not an independent contractor.
An additional consideration is whether your injury will qualify you for benefits. The rule is that you must have either sustained your injury while you were at work, or while you were going about work-related business. As an example, a delivery driver who is covered by workers’ compensation would be eligible for benefits if they were injured either in the delivery warehouse or if they were injured while out delivering their parcels, however they would not be eligible if they were hurt while playing sports after work because that is not related to their job. In some instances where the injury is due to repeated acts or exposure at work, injuries that cause long-term damage to you can also be covered by workers’ compensation.
How long is the waiting period in Delaware?
There is a mandatory four-day waiting period before you can begin claiming your wage replacement benefits under workers’ compensation. However, for medical benefits, there is no waiting period and you can begin claiming those on the day you are injured. Both of these waiting periods are codified under Delaware Code § 2321, and if you have any questions on how they may apply to you, then you can reach out to one of our team members to provide answers during a free consultation with us.
Let’s Work Together To Protect Your Rights
Even if you begin to receive some benefits from the workers’ compensation insurance company, you should consult an attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation so that he or she can ensure you receive the maximum benefits available. Contact us for a free consultation. Call 302-298-0370 or send us an email today.