Delaware Workers’ Compensation Benefits – Who qualifies, and for how long?

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heather_long_sq_as11By: Heather A. Long, Esq.

1. Time Limitations for
Filing a Work Injury Claim

Many women, myself included, are notorious for putting themselves on the back burner while we take care of our families and loved ones. Especially now, as the school year begins we find our spare time getting shorter and our “to do” lists getting longer. Normally our chaotic work and home schedules would have no impact on our legal rights.  However, if you are injured at work you need to be proactive and protect your legal rights early on, in order to get the care you need and the money
you deserve.

Under the Delaware Workers’ Compensation laws
you only have a certain amount of time in which to file a claim.

This is called the “Statute of Limitations,” and here in Delaware, that time limit is two years. In order to get your claim filed, a “First Report of Injury” form needs to be filled out and sent to the Industrial Accident Board (IAB).  Normally your employer will fill this out and get it filed at the IAB, but if they will not or cannot, you or your attorney can file this. Either way, I recommend having an attorney review this form to make sure that your injury and rate of pay are properly documented. Most Workers’ Compensation attorneys will do this for you at no charge during your initial consultation.

After your claim has been filed, it must be accepted by both the IAB and your employer. This means that everyone must be in agreement as to the injuries you sustained, the way in which you sustained them and your average weekly wage at the time you were injured. If there is a disagreement between you and your employer as to any of these things, a hearing must be conducted by the folks at the IAB. They will hear from both you and your employer, and will make a decision regarding those things that you can’t come to an agreement on.

Once all parties have “accepted” the work injury claim, a new stopwatch begins to tick, and you are now protected by a new Statute of Limitations.  This new Statute of Limitations runs for five years.  At the end of the five-year period, you are able to renew your benefits for an additional five years as long as your employer pays for at least one medical bill related to your initial work injury. Each time your employer pays a medical bill related to your work injury, a new five-year period begins. So, theoretically speaking, you can continue to be protected by Workers’ Compensation benefits for the rest of your life as long as payments are made on your behalf that relate to your work injury at least once every five years.

2. Who is eligible to receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

One of my clients Mary Jones* (names and accident descriptions have been changed) came to see me and said that she was injured when she slipped and fell in the kitchen of a restaurant where she was working.  Her boss told her that she was not able to apply for Workers’ Compensation benefits because she was only part time and had not worked enough hours for the year to qualify.  She believed her boss, and began using her health insurance for her treatment.

To make a long story short, the health insurance company paid the medical bills but then realized that the Workers’ Compensation insurance should have paid the bills because they were the result of a work injury. The health insurer then tried to collect money from Mary. Luckily, her Statute of Limitations on her Workers’ Compensation claim had not expired and we were able to get her Workers Compensation carrier to pay the medical bills.

The general rule is that whenever you are hurt on the job,
you are entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits.

It does not matter how many hours per week you work, how long you have been working, how much money you make, or even if it was your own carelessness that caused the injury. Everyone, regardless of fault, who is classified as an “employee” (as opposed to an independent contractor) in the State of Delaware is protected by Workers’ Compensation benefits if they are injured on the job. Additionally, every injured worker is bound by the same Statute of Limitations described above.

If you or your loved one is injured on the job, make the most of the benefits to which you are entitled and make sure that your claim is submitted and renewed within the appropriate Statute of Limitations. Taking the time early on to make your health and recovery from your injury a top priority will enable you to enjoy a healthy life well into
the future.

Heather has been an attorney for over five years, and is currently practicing workers’ compensation and personal injury law at Kimmel, Carter, Roman & Peltz, P.A. with offices in Newark and Wilmington. Heather worked her way through law school as a paralegal in a personal injury firm. After passing the bar exam, she spent several years working as a defense attorney, representing local, regional and national companies. With the knowledge gained of the inner-workings of these companies, she now represents injured workers and personal injury plaintiffs.
Heather is a graduate of Widener University School of Law, and the University of Nebraska- Lincoln. Prior to attending law school, she was licensed as a paramedic and spent time volunteering for her local ambulance corps. She is also active as a coach and judge for the Delaware High School Mock Trial Competition.

Heather is licensed to practice law in Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. For more information, or to schedule a free consultation, please call
(302) 565-6100 or e-mail her directly at HLong@kcrlaw.com.


Testimonials:
“I really appreciate all the time and effort you spent on my case. I will refer all my friends and family
to you.”     ~ D.M.

“You got my case settled at the perfect time!.”     ~ G.M.

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