What Should I Do If I Receive a Notice of Intention to Discontinue Benefits on My Minnesota Work Comp Claim?

At some point in almost any work comp claim where you are paid wage loss benefits, you will receive a Notice of Intention to Discontinue benefits, commonly referred to as an NOID. An NOID is simply a form which the insurer is required to serve and file whenever they will be discontinuing wage loss benefits. The form provides you with notice that your benefits will be ending at a certain time and explains the reason why.

Some reasons why you might receive an NOID form

1. You have returned to work. If you have been off work and receiving wage loss benefits from work comp, you have been receiving Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits. These benefits are paid at the rate of 2/3 of your average weekly wage on the date of injury. (For more information on TTD benefits, see our blog post here)

The notice tells you that the insurance company will be discontinuing those benefits because you are back to work and no longer entitled to TTD benefits. If you are returning to work, with restrictions from your injury but earning less than your preinjury wage, you may be entitled to partial wage loss benefits (TPD) and the NOID form should reflect that you will be paid TPD benefits upon returning to work. It doesn’t matter whether you are going back to work for the same employer or whether you have found a new job since the injury.

2. You have exhausted your TTD benefits. For dates of injury between 10/1/95 and 9/30/08, you are limited to 104 weeks of TTD benefits. This means that even if you are still out of work because of the injury, you cannot receive more than 104 weeks of TTD and your benefits will end. For injuries on or after 10/1/08, the maximum number of TTD benefits was increased from 104 to 130 weeks.

3. Your weekly earnings have reached or exceeded your preinjury wage. If you have been working at a wage loss and receiving TPD benefits, those benefits will end once you get back to your preinjury wage, because you no longer have a wage loss.

4. You have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI). If you are receiving TTD benefits, those benefits will end 90 days after you are provided with notice that you have reached MMI. An MMI opinion can come from one of your treating physicians or from a doctor who has examined you for the insurance company (this is called an Independent Medical Exam (IME), more information about an IME can be found here). The explanation for why your benefits are being discontinued must be included on the NOID form.

5. You no longer have work restrictions. If your treating physician, or the IME doctor, gives an opinion that you have no work restrictions as a result of the work injury, you are no longer eligible for wage loss benefits. Most often, this occurs following an IME where the insurance company doctor writes a report and gives the opinion that you have fully recovered from the work injury or that any restrictions you have are not related to the work injury. Sometimes, your own doctor may lift all restrictions without fully understanding how this might affect your claim. (For more information about choosing a physician for a work comp claim, click here).

What you can do if you receive an NOID

Your options after receiving an NOID are explained on the form and will depend upon the reasons for the discontinuance. If you disagree with the discontinuance of benefits or the reasons given, you can request a telephone conference with a work comp judge to argue your position. The time frame to dispute a discontinuance if you want an immediate conference is generally 12 days. The NOID form provides you with a phone number and address and explains how to request the conference.

If you have an attorney, you should obviously make sure that he or she has received a copy of the NOID form and will be requesting a conference on your behalf if you disagree with the discontinuance of your benefits. If you don’t have an attorney, this would be a very good time to contact one. At the discontinuance conference, the insurance company will be represented by either a claims adjuster or an attorney. The discontinuance of your benefits is a serious matter and you should have an experienced work comp attorney representing you at that conference.

If you win at the conference and the judge agrees that your benefits should not be discontinued, the insurance company may appeal but they will have to continue paying your benefits until a formal hearing is scheduled. However, if you lose at the conference, you may appeal but you will not receive any benefits while you wait for the formal hearing and a decision. Having an attorney represent you at the initial conference will generally give you a much better chance to win.

There are some other reasons why your benefits might be discontinued, but these are the most common situations that we typically see.

Contact Us If You Have Questions about Your Claim

If you have been injured on the job and have questions about the Minnesota work comp system, please don’t hesitate to give us a call. You can contact us anytime, with questions about your case or to arrange an absolutely free consultation. It won’t cost you anything and we will always give you our honest assessment about whether you need a lawyer to represent you. If you have questions or concerns about the cost of hiring an attorney, you can check out this previous post- How much does it cost to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer in Minnesota?

At Bradt Law Offices, we have been providing assistance to injured workers all across northern Minnesota and the Iron Range for more than 32 years.

As always, thank you for visiting our blog and please spread the word that we are a good source of work comp information for workers injured in northern Minnesota or anywhere on the Iron Range.

Can the Insurance Company Deny My Minnesota Work Comp Claim Because of a Pre-existing Condition?

Unfortunately, the work comp insurance company can deny a claim on almost any basis, no matter how flimsy. This is how insurance companies avoid paying claims, because they know that a certain percentage of people will never hire a lawyer or pursue a claim if it has been denied. This is particularly true where the injured worker has health insurance or other benefits available – many people are simply afraid to call a lawyer or don’t know where to begin when their claim has been denied.

However, getting back to the original question: Can the insurance company deny your claim because of a pre-existing condition? The answer is “maybe”. A pre-existing condition may have some impact on whether you have a legitimate work comp claim. However, the simple fact that you have had some prior back problems, for example, does not necessarily disqualify you from bringing a claim for current back problems related to a work injury or your work activities. The issue is more complicated than that.

Example: Prior Back Problems

The real question is whether your prior back problems were affecting your ability to work or limiting your physical or other activities prior to the work incident. Many people have back problems or other physical ailments which intermittently give them some problems but “come and go”. They are able to continue working and enjoying their usual and regular physical activities with only occasional flareups of symptoms. If a work injury or your regular work activities significantly aggravates or accelerates a pre-existing condition to the point where you now need medical care and may need some physical restrictions or limitations, then you probably have a work comp claim.

Prior Work Comp Claims Involving the Same Body Part

Another common issue arises where a person has had a prior work comp claim involving the same body part. We’ll continue with the example of a bad back. Let’s say you had a back injury 10 years ago which was treated as work comp. The insurance company paid you wage loss and medical benefits but you were able to return to work. Now, you have had a new back injury or your work activities have gradually caused an increase or return of your back problems. The claim could be against the same or a new employer, but there will probably be a different work comp insurance company involved since your claim from 10 years ago.

This is a work comp claim, but you can almost be assured there will be a dispute between the current work comp insurance company and the company that provided coverage 10 years ago when you filed your prior claim. In all likelihood, the claim will be covered by one insurance company or the other, but there may be a delay in obtaining benefits while the insurance companies slug it out between themselves.

When in Doubt —  Contact an Attorney

If you find yourself in a situation where your claim has been denied because the insurance company says you have a pre-existing condition, or if two insurance companies are each arguing that the other is responsible, it’s time to contact an attorney. The insurance companies have lawyers and other experts protecting their interests and they are not looking out for yours. An experienced work comp attorney should be able to review your medical records and any prior work comp records and give you an opinion as to what type of claim you have. If the insurance company wants to fight, make sure you have an attorney who is willing to go to bat for you and get you the benefits to which you are entitled.

At Bradt Law Offices, we have been representing your friends and neighbors in work comp and other injury claims for over 30 years. Our clients come from all over northern Minnesota and we are happy to discuss any claim, with anyone, at any time. Whether you just have some questions over the phone or would like to make an appointment to come in for a free consultation, don’t hesitate to call and let us help you. You will always get our honest opinion and there is never any fee unless we recover benefits for you.

Thank you for visiting our blog.

 

Laid off Boise Cascade Employees May Have Workers’ Compensation Claims

If you are an employee of Boise Cascade in International Falls who recently lost your job due to the layoffs, you may be surprised to learn that you have work comp claims. We have represented people in similar situations over the years following major layoffs at Blandin Paper Company and LTV Mining, to name a couple of examples.

In our experience,  employer’s generally do not notify employees about potential work comp claims following a layoff. The simple reason for this is that it would cost your employer money if it had to pay ongoing work comp claims. For this reason, many laid off employees simply collect unemployment compensation and then move on to another job without any idea that they may be eligible for work comp benefits.

Under what circumstances might you have a work comp claim following a layoff?  These are a few examples:

1. You suffered a work related injury at some time during your employment before the layoff;

2. The injury was accepted by the work comp insurer and medical or wage loss benefits were paid;

3. At the time of the layoff, you still had some limitations or restrictions as a result of the work injury (even if you were working at full wage at the time of the layoff);

4. Your previous work injury resulted in a permanent impairment under the work comp disability schedules, but the disability was never rated by your physician or paid by the insurance company;

5. You have a gradual or repetitive type injury which you haven’t yet reported but which is related to your work activities up to the time of the layoff;

6. Depending upon how much time has passed since your injury, you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation assistance or retraining;

What type of benefits might be available? Again, some examples:

1. Partial wage loss benefits if you find a new job which pays you less than you were earning before the layoff;

2. Compensation for a disability rating;

3. Total wage loss benefits if you were off work and receiving work comp benefits at the time of the layoff;

4. Wage loss and vocational rehabilitation benefits if you have what amounts to a “new” injury which has not yet been reported;

What should I do now?

1. If you have an old work comp claim and were represented by an attorney, contact the attorney to find out if you have any claims which remain available to you after the layoff;

2. If you have an old work comp claim but never had an attorney, contact an experienced work comp attorney to see about your options;

3. If you believe that you have suffered a gradual or repetitive type injury as a result of your work activities which you haven’t reported to the employer, contact an experienced work comp attorney immediately. Work comp claims in Minnesota have notice and filing deadlines – if you miss one of these deadlines your claim will be barred forever.

Our Recommendation

If you have an old claim, think that you have a new claim, or just have questions about work comp benefits following a layoff, contact an experienced work comp attorney for consultation. At Bradt Law Offices, there is no charge for an initial consultation over the phone, in your home or at our office. A layoff is a traumatic, life-changing event. While you may be entitled to unemployment benefits in the near term, you may be surprised to find that you have claims for work comp benefits to help you through this transition in your life. Feel free to contact us at any time with your questions – you will always get our honest opinion and we will help you in any way that we can.

We have been helping your friends and neighbors with work injury claims across all of northern Minnesota for 30 years. Let us help you.

Thank you for visiting our blog and/or our website.

Questions to Ask Before You Hire A Lawyer for Your Minnesota Work Comp Case

You‘ve been injured at work.  You are either thinking about filing a claim or have already done so.  Perhaps you are dealing with an insurance company claims adjuster you don’t really trust.  Maybe the insurance company has scheduled you for an independent medical exam (IME), or assigned a QRC to your case.  No matter the reason, you are looking for an attorney who can answer some questions for you and protect your interests, if necessary.

You have looked in the phonebook or done a Google search and found dozens of lawyers and law firms who advertise themselves as work comp lawyers.  Minneapolis.  St. Paul.  Duluth.  The Iron Range.  Who to call?  What questions to ask?

These would be some good questions to ask if you are looking for an experienced attorney to help you with your case:

Do you specialize in work comp cases?  What you really want to know is if the attorney focuses his or her practice primarily on workers’ compensation claims.  You probably don’t want someone who dabbles in work comp, along with divorces, DUIs, wills, real estate, etc.  While a general practice law firm can be very helpful on a number of matters, work comp is a complicated and specialized field of practice.  We develop skills and knowledge about work comp matters only after years of experience with a variety of injury claims.  If work comp is just one of many practice areas an attorney advertises, you may want to look elsewhere.  My practice is limited exclusively to workers’ compensation, injury and Social Security disability matters.

Have you taken many cases to trial?  There is no substitute for experience.  If an attorney has taken lots of cases to trial over a number of years, you can assume that you are talking to someone with a lot of experience.  Taking cases to trial is important for several reasons.  For one thing, at trials we appear before a variety of different judges and learn what to expect in each judge’s courtroom.  It’s also important to take cases to trial because sometimes that’s the only way to get a fair result.  If the attorney for the insurance company knows that your lawyer will take a case to trial, they are much more likely to make a fair settlement offer.  I’ve been trying work comp cases for my injured clients all across northern Minnesota for over 28 years.

Do you have experience with my type of injury?  Over the past 28 years, I have had experience with just about every kind of injury one could imagine.  So, when a new client comes to me and asks if I’ve ever handled a shoulder surgery claim, a lead poisoning claim,  a cervical fusion case, a brain injury claim, a quadriplegia case or a carpal tunnel claim, I can answer  “yes”.  I can also suggest a variety of surgeons or medical specialists who might be able to help my client with medical treatment and a supportive letter or medical report for the claim.

Are you familiar with northern Minnesota?  Why is this important?  Well, it certainly helps if your attorney knows the local medical providers, vocational rehabilitation consultants and employment services and opportunities.  It helps to know all about the mining industry, construction industry, tourism and logging industry across northern Minnesota, and what my clients do at those jobs.   It might even help if your attorney has actually operated a forklift, a loader, a chainsaw or a jackhammer.  (Or delivered Hamm’s beer from Eveleth to Ely, which I did many years ago : )   If you are looking for a new job after a work injury, you need every advantage you can get in a tough economy.  As an Eveleth native and resident of northern Minnesota for over 50 years, I know my way around the Iron Range – and that’s good for my clients.

What We Recommend

If you feel that it’s time to have someone in your corner while you battle the insurance company, or if you simply have a few questions about your claim or the work comp system, please give me a call.  Don’t be afraid to contact us, anytime, if I can answer some questions for you.  It won’t cost you anything and I will always give you my honest assessment about whether you need a lawyer to represent you.

Remember, you are dealing with an insurance company which handles hundreds or thousands of claims every day. They have experienced claims adjusters and attorneys managing their files.  Even if you don’t need a lawyer at the moment, a little information about how the work comp system works can make a big difference for you in your dealings with the insurance company.

If you have questions about how much it costs to hire us (nothing), this earlier post should answer those questions for you.

Was this post helpful? Did it answer your questions? If you would like to contact us for a free consultation or to send us an email, CLICK HERE.

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Thanks again for visiting our blog and please spread the word that we are a source of good work comp information for workers injured in northern Minnesota and anywhere on the Iron Range.

How Much Does it Cost to Hire a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer in Minnesota?

Let’s face it, nobody likes the thought of having to hire a lawyer.  The very idea of calling a lawyer or making an appointment can be very stressful. If you are like most people,  you’ve never needed to hire a lawyer and have no idea what’s involved.  You probably have a number of questions and concerns, but for most people, the # 1 question is:  “How much will it cost  (or, how do I pay a work comp lawyer)?”

In Minnesota, hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer is actually fairly painless.  In a nutshell, we only get paid if we are successful.  I can’t speak for other law firms, but at Bradt Law Offices, we don’t ask for any money up front to cover costs or expenses and you’ll never receive a bill from us. It costs you nothing to hire us and we only get paid if we recover benefits for you.

Attorney Fees Are Set by Law

Not only do we only get paid if we win, but our fees are controlled by law and are the same for every lawyer in every Minnesota work comp case. Attorney fees are 25% of the first $4000 we recover for you, and then 20% after that.  The maximum automatic fee under this formula is $13,000 for each date of injury.  In the majority of cases, attorney fees never come close to $13,000.   In some cases, however, we may receive total fees in excess of $13,000 where there are multiple disputes, prolonged and ongoing litigation or where our client receives a substantial amount of benefits or a large settlement.  We never request fees in excess of $13,000 without our clients’ agreement and understanding.

Situations Where We Might Receive a Fee from Your Benefits 

Attorney fees are only paid from disputed  benefits.  If you hire us and are already receiving wage loss benefits, we do not start taking a percentage of those benefits because we didn’t get them for you.   We would represent you from that point forward on any other issues that may come up during the course of your claim.  In fact, we sometimes open and close a file without earning any attorney fees because no disputes ever arise.  These are examples of some common situations where you might pay attorney fees out of benefits you receive:

  • Your claim is denied and we get benefits for you, either by settlement or after a trial
  • Your benefits are discontinued and we get them reinstated
  • The insurance company is underpaying you and we get your benefits increased
  • We negotiate a settlement of your claim

Some Attorney Fees Are Paid by the Insurance Company

Not every dispute in a work comp claim involves money payable to you.  For example, the insurance company may be voluntarily paying your wage loss benefits but refusing to approve surgery, an MRI or a referral to a medical specialist.  This would be strictly a medical dispute.  If we file a claim for the disputed medical issues and win, the insurance company will pay our attorney fees, not you.

Or, if there is a dispute involving a QRC or vocational rehabilitation issues and we win, the insurance company will again have to pay our fees, because we aren’t putting any money in your pocket.  Wherever possible, we  always try to get the insurance company to pay our fees.

Free Consultation Over the Phone or in Person

At Bradt Law Offices,  you can call us anytime with questions about your claim or to see if you might need a lawyer.  If you prefer, we can make an appointment to meet in our office, in the hospital or at your home to discuss your case.  We will explain the work comp system , what benefits you might be entitled to and whether or not you need a lawyer.  There is never a charge for this service or information.

What we recommend

Don’t be afraid to call a lawyer if you have questions about a work comp claim or feel that you’re not being treated fairly by the insurance company.  At Bradt Law Offices, we speak with people all the time who simply have questions about a claim but don’t necessarily need an attorney.  We are happy to help in any way we can and, very often, people we speak with later end up hiring us when a dispute arises on their claim.

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