Some people run into a string of bad luck and find themselves being injured on the job while in the midst of a criminal case or being convicted of a crime after filing a workers' comp claim. With the possibility of jail time on the horizon, a question that commonly pops up in this type of situation is whether or not it's possible to manage a workers' compensation case from jail. It really depends on where you are in your claim and how long you're expected to be in jail.
The Requirements of a Workers' Comp Claim
To know how incarceration will impact your workers' comp claim, it's important to understand how the process works. Although the exact steps vary a little depending on what state you live in, the procedure is basically the same.
After you're injured on the job, you must file a claim with your employer for workers' comp benefits within a certain time period. In Illinois, for example, you must tell your employer about your injury within 45 days. Although a claim may still be filed with workers' comp insurance for up to 3 years in the state, it may be denied if you don't fulfill this crucial step first.
Once the workers' comp agency is notified of your injury, you will be required to undergo one or more medical exams. The insurance provider will have you see a doctor of its choosing to determine the extent of your injuries. Because these exams are often done by medical professionals who may be biased towards the insurance provider, the state may also require you to undergo a second exam by a doctor chosen from a special list of impartial examiners.
After these examinations, you may be required to attend hearings to discuss issues related to your case and receive a decision about your benefits. In some cases, workers' comp will review your case in-house and let you know the outcome. In either event, you may be required to undergo follow-up testing or attend additional hearings.
Issues Involving Incarceration
The immediate problem incarceration creates for your workers' comp claim is that you won't be free to attend meetings or get examined by medical staff as required. The available options for resolving the situation will depend on when your jail sentence starts in relation to where you are in the claims process.
If you are put in jail at the start of your claim, you may be able to postpone filing the claim until you are released. As mentioned previously, you must notify your employer about your injury right away. However, you can delay filing the actual claim with the insurance provider until you are released from jail.
This is not ideal because it may become more difficult to prove your case the longer you wait. Your injuries may heal or needed evidence may be destroyed. As long as you file within the time period set by workers' comp, though, the insurance provider will open a case for consideration.
If your jail sentence starts after you've begun the claims process, it may be possible to work around the required medical exams and meetings. For instance, workers' comp may be willing to accept medical reports from the jailhouse doctor, though this may not work if you need to be examined by a specialist. Prisoners aren't released for medical issues unless it's an emergency. The court may allow you to attend hearings via telephone or video chat provided you are allowed access to this technology in jail.
The best thing you can do when your criminal and workers' comp cases collide is to enlist the assistance of a workers' compensation attorney who can evaluate the situation and help you find ways to manage the process while in jail. For assistance with this issue, contact an attorney or click here for more info about workers' comp cases.