Personal Injury

How long do I have to file a claim?

The deadline for filing a claim varies depending on the nature of the claim and the defendant. Not all personal injury claims have a two year statute of limitations. For example, some claims have a 180 day notice period, some claims have a one year filing deadline, and yet others have a deadline of two years, or more. The age of the plaintiff may also affect when the statute of limitations begins to run. Always consult with an experienced attorney as early as possible concerning your claim to learn what kind of deadlines you are facing. Despite your deadlines, there may also be practical and strategic reasons to filing early or late on a claim.

What can I recover as damages?

Recoverable damages depends on many factors. However, in general, potential damages may include past and future wage loss, property damage, diminution in value, disfigurement, past and future medical bills, lost opportunity, loss of consortium, punitive, and pain and suffering. Your ability to recover these damages depends on the nature of the defendant’s conduct, nature and extent of your injuries, nature and admissibility of the evidence, and the nature and extent of the assets of the defendant and/or their insurance policies. Timely collecting and preserving admissible evidence in your case is important. A timely consultation with an experienced attorney can help you understand the nature of damages you might be able to recover and what should be done now to preserve the proper evidence.

What insurance can I collect against?

Some plaintiffs have multiple defendants and numerous layers of insurance against which they can collect, while other plaintiffs are left with no insurance at all. Your ability to collect may depending on many factors like the nature of your accident, nature of the defendant and their conduct, what insurance policies you possess, who you live with, and who owns the vehicles or equipment involved. Properly identifying those insurance policies, assessing the relevant facts, and proceeding with claims in the correct order, may affect the net proceeds to your pocket. A plaintiff also needs to be aware of subrogation rights and liens asserted by carriers and medical providers and when those rights are enforceable. Without knowledge of the enforceability of subrogation rights and liens, an injured person may erroneously pay an insurance carrier who has no enforceable right to the money, or may not pay a carrier who has enforceable rights and will attempt to pursue you for collection at a later date. The amount of money an injured person collects, and from whom it is collected, may also affect the enforceability of subrogation claims and liens. The assistance of an experienced attorney is advisable in navigating subrogation rights and liens.

Who else has claims on my recovery?

There are many entities that may claim an interest in your recovery. You must know who those potential entities are and how to discover the potential claims being asserted. For example, hospitals may have statutory rights to assert liens against your recovery even though your private health insurance coverage has paid the contracted fee schedule and you have a statement indicating nothing is owed. The enforceability of those liens and the amount that you should pay is dependent on many factors. Liens may also be asserted by treating physicians and your health insurance carrier that has paid medical bills. Again the enforceability of each of these liens depends on the detailed facts and circumstances of your claim. Some liens are subject to negotiation with substantial reduction and others are not. The assistance of an experienced attorney is advisable in handling claims against your recovery.

Workers' Compensation

Am I covered by Workers' Compensation?

Every employee in the State of Arizona, with few exceptions, is covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Even if your employer fails to purchase workers’ compensation insurance, you may still be covered by the Arizona’s Special Fund. Many claims actually have coverage even though the injured person may think there is no coverage. Please feel free to call regarding your personal circumstances and discuss whether there is potential coverage for your claim.

Can I file for more than Workers' Compensation?

On the job injuries may give rise to numerous claims. Social security disability, contractual short and long term disability, third party personal injury, and products liability, just to name a few. Careful analysis of these potential claims by an experienced attorney is advisable and potential referrals to other legal specialists may be needed for adequate evaluation.

Can I reopen an old case?

Arizona workers’ compensation claims may be reopened if certain evidentiary requirements are met. Even some previously settled claims may be reopened depending on the nature of the prior settlement. Petitions to reopen should not be filed without knowledge of the evidentiary requirements. Losing a petition to reopen can create a greater evidentiary hurdle for the next petition to reopen. Sound legal and practical advice is needed when considering a petition to reopen.

Can the carrier pick my doctor?

Unless your employer is self-insured or has statutory rights to direct medical care, you can choose your medical provider. If the employer is self-insured, the employer can direct care, but you still have some choices. In either setting, without knowing it, you may by your conduct have chosen your authorized medical provider. Going to a doctor twice is often construed as your choice of physician. If it is too late and you have already chosen your authorized medical provider by your conduct, you may request a change of provider by properly filing a request to change doctors at the Industrial Commission of Arizona. However, you need to be both wise and informed when changing doctors. Be aware that your treating doctor is an important part of your claim. Your chosen medical provider may affect not only the medical care you receive, but also your benefits and your ability to present compelling evidence at hearing if a dispute arises with the workers’ compensation carrier. Please feel free to contact our office for a consultation regarding help and guidance in pursuing medical care.

How much time do I have to file a claim?

In general, workers have up to one year to file a claim for workers’ compensation at the Industrial Commission of Arizona. However, don’t be confused and fail to “forthwith” report the industrial injury to your employer. Forthwith reporting a claim to the employer and filing the claim are two different things. Needless delays in filing a claim with the Industrial Commission of Arizona may also have consequences in your ability to locate witnesses and obtain evidence necessary to win your claim. Feel free to contact our office for a consultation and discuss the timely filing of your claim and any exceptions that may exist.

Is retraining available?

There is no mandatory retraining in Arizona, but injured workers may take advantage of various opportunities for retraining. Application can be made to the State Special Fund and to the Department of Economic Security for assistance in retraining. Each case is individually evaluated so there are no standard or mandatory entitlements. In some cases, even the workers’ compensation carrier may contribute to retraining. There are also scholarship opportunities for children of severely or fatally injured workers through private organizations. Consultation with an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation may help an injured worker find retraining opportunities.

What benefits do I receive?

In general, injured workers have rights to receive benefits for lost wages, medical expenses, and disability. However, the amount of those benefits depends on many factors including the nature of the injury, time missed from work, doctor restrictions, the average monthly wage, ratable disabilities related to the industrial injury, compliance with workers’ compensation rules, and other issues. For example, wage benefits are not paid unless the injured worker is off work with appropriate medical support for more than seven days. However, if more than thirteen work days are missed, the worker may receive wage benefits covering the first seven days. Actual receipt of wage benefits may be affected by disputes with the workers’ compensation carrier over appropriate medical restrictions, availability of light duty work, good faith attempts to find alternative employment, and other issues. Please feel free to contact our office regarding a consultation to discuss your pre-accident earnings and your potential entitlement to benefits.

What do I do if I am injured on the job?

Forthwith report your injury to your supervisor. (“Forthwith” often means immediately.) Keep a copy of any employer incident or injury report form you fill out. Be complete and accurate about describing your symptoms on the incident or injury report form. Do not leave off even minor symptoms. Seek prompt medical attention from a qualified medical provider you trust. Inform the initial medical provider that you were injured while working. Double check that the medical provider has recorded ALL your complaints. Promptly file a worker’s report of injury form at the Industrial Commission of Arizona. Obtain a copy of any work restrictions issued by your doctor. Proper reporting of your injury is critical! Arizona law requires that an injured worker forthwith report an on-the-job injury to the employer. Delayed, inaccurate, or incomplete reporting to the appropriate supervisor can potentially result in the denial of an otherwise valid claim. Failing to report an injury because you think you will go home and feel better the next day may results in a denial. When notifying the supervisor, not only state that you have been injured, but clearly indicate the incident happened while working. Additionally, it is often wise to forthwith report an incident in writing and keep a copy of the incident report so you can prove it was reported. Be sure to list all areas of injury and symptoms on the incident report. In addition to forthwith reporting to the employer, a timely claim must be filed with the Industrial Commission of Arizona. Lastly, do not unreasonably delay medical care. When you go to the initial medical visit, make sure you are thorough in reporting your symptoms and that the physician documents every complaint. Failure to document complaints at the initial evaluation may result in the carrier trying to deny portions of your medical treatment or allege that certain conditions are not related to the injury. Please feel free to call our office to discuss the proper reporting and filing of your claim. Gradual injury claims can pose some challenges in identifying and reporting the injury. You still have obligations to “forthwith” report a gradual injury and identify an injury date. Seek legal advice when facing complicated or confusing issues.

What if I am an independent contractor?

The evaluation and determination as to whether an injured worker is an independent contractor for workers’ compensation purposes is different than in many other settings. Just because a worker is considered an independent contractor for tax purposes, or the employer refers to the worker as an “independent contractor”, does not necessary mean the worker is an independent contractor for purposes of workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation law considers numerous criteria in determining whether a worker is truly an independent contractor. This evaluation may require a detailed review of the totality of the work environment. Experienced legal advice is advisable when evaluating such an issue.

What is my average monthly wage?

Typically, soon after a claim is filed with the Industrial Commission of Arizona, a Notice of Average Monthly Wage is issued by the Industrial Commission. This is an important notice that establishes your pre-injury earning capacity and is used in the calculation of wage and disability benefits over the life of the claim. The accuracy of this notice is critical to the amount of your benefits. There are many different methods of calculating the average monthly wage and many issues can be considered in this evaluation. Experienced legal advice is recommended in evaluating the accuracy of this notice. This notice, like many others, only has a 90 day protest period.

What should I do with Notices?

Many notices may be issued concerning a claim. Some notices are issued by the workers’ compensation carrier and other notices are issued by the Industrial Commission of Arizona. Great attention must be paid to all these notices! Protests must be timely filed when appropriate. Never disregard notices or their protest deadlines. Protest periods can be short and prompt action is necessary. Notices often have permanent and binding effects on a claim if not protested. If you have questions about a notice, obtain legal advice well before the protest period expires.

When should I hire a lawyer?

There is no universal answer to this question. Some injured workers would be wise to retain an attorney as soon as possible and have long term representation, while others may never need to retain an attorney. From the moment you are injured until the time the claim is closed, notices are being issued and evidence is being created that may affect your current and future benefits. It is best to consult with an attorney as early as possible to evaluate the nature of your claim and discuss the issues that may arise. After a consultation, you should be more knowledgeable and in a better position to decide when it is in your best interest to retain an attorney.

Who can file my claim?

Your workers’ compensation claim may be filed by the employer, the workers’ compensation carrier or yourself. However, you alone are ultimately responsible for the timely and proper filing of the claim. If you are uncertain as to whether a claim has been filed, contact the Claims Division of the Industrial Commission of Arizona at 602-542-4661. A claim is not valid until it is filed with the Industrial Commission of Arizona. Make sure the Industrial Commission of Arizona and the workers’ compensation carrier are notified of any changes in address you may have following your injury so that notices regarding your claim are sent to the correct address. Too often, injured workers claim they notified the employer and the workers’ compensation carrier of their claim and assumed one of those entities filed the claim with the Industrial Commission. Never rely on another entity to file your claim. You do not need to know the name and policy information of the employer’s workers’ compensation carrier to file a claim at the Industrial Commission of Arizona. The Industrial Commission of Arizona will be able to look up your employer and identify and notify the proper workers’ compensation carrier after you file the claim. A workers’ compensation attorney can also assist you in properly filing a claim. Feel free to contact our office for consultation and advice.

Against whom can I file a claim?

In Arizona, a claim for workers’ compensation benefits is filed against your employer at the Industrial Commission of Arizona. The Industrial Commission then identifies your employer and their workers’ compensation carrier as defendants. Although Arizona has the exclusive remedy rule regarding actions against your employer, your work injury may give rise to other causes of action against other entities. Feel free to contact our office for a consultation to evaluate if other causes of action may be pursued due to your industrial injury. Other causes of action may include third party personal injury, social security disability, contractual disability, products liability, and others.