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When An Attorney Is (and Isn‘t) Necessary in a Work-Related Injury Claim

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According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics 3.1 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses were reported in 2010. A preliminary total of 4,547 fatal workplace injuries were reported for the same year.

Most companies and employers in New Mexico are responsive to laws concerning job-related injuries. However, stories of how companies have refused to pay worker‘s compensation benefits are constantly surfacing in the news. It is natural for individuals injured in a work-related accident to wonder if their employers have done everything they can and are required to do by law.

Under the New Mexico Workers Compensation Act (Act), if a personal injury or death occurred while an employee was performing a work-related duty, the employee is entitled to worker‘s compensation benefits for his or her injuries.

Worker‘s compensation in New Mexico covers medical, indemnity, and funeral benefits. Medical benefits include physical care and therapy, hospitalization costs, psychiatric care, counseling, chiropractic treatment, medication, and prescribed medical equipment.

Depending on the extent of injury, New Mexico Worker‘s Compensation is meant to cover a portion of income while the disability lasts. The types of benefits available are total disability (TTD), permanent partial disability (PPD), and permanent total disability (PTD).

However, the Act limits the amount an employee is able to recover for a personal injury or death that occurred on the job. In fact, in cases of serious injury or death, the benefits allowable under worker‘s compensation are sorely inadequate. For injuries suffered on the job, the benefits allowable under the Act are the exclusive remedy for those employers that are in compliance with the provisions of the Act.

Having said this, there may be several reasons to contact an experienced personal injury attorney for injury or death arising from a work-related accident. In some cases, employers fail to live up to their responsibilities under the Act. If the employer has failed to obtain worker‘s compensation insurance, then the employer will not be protected by the Act. Without the protection of the Act, the injured employee may sue the employer for all recoverable damages just like any other defendant.

In other cases, there may be a third party involved in the work-related injury. Third parties can be part of a work related injury in many ways. For example, there may be several different contractors working on a construction site where an employee is injured. For workers whose jobs involve transportation, the negligent acts of another driver or passenger may injure them. In yet another case, a worker may be injured on the job by a defective product manufactured by a third party. In all of these cases and many others, an employee may have a personal injury or wrongful death suit against a third party above and beyond their worker‘s compensation claim.

Generally, if an employer is complying with the Worker‘s Compensation Act, an employee may not bring a worker‘s compensation claim against the employer. Nor can an employee sue to the employer in personal injury. If, however, the employer is not complying with the Act, or there is a third party involved, the injured employee may have a valid personal injury claim. In these cases, it is important to contact a personal injury attorney immediately.

Collins & Collins, P.C.
Albuquerque Attorneys

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