(Transcript)

Cindy Speaker: Good afternoon. My name is Cindy Speaker. Thank you for coming to our show today. We know you have lots to do, and it’s so nice that you’ve taken a few moments out of your busy schedule to join us. My guest today is David Daggett, of Daggett Shuler Attorneys at Law.

David, how are you doing today?

David Daggett:  Hey Cindy, how are you doing today?

Cindy Speaker:  Good to talk to you. I’m doing well.

David Daggett:  Good, good.

Cindy Speaker:   A little rainy up here, but it’s okay. All good. Yeah. Well, David, today we’re gonna talk about workers’ compensation. In that you know a lot about this, and your firm handles a lot of these cases.

David Daggett:  Yes.

Cindy Speaker: Let’s start off and talk about someone is injured at work, should they call an attorney right away? Should they let the company deal with their insurance policy? What do you recommend on that? How can an attorney get involved? And at what point should an attorney get involved?

David Daggett: Okay. So, first workers’ compensation covers any accident that occurs at work. With any employer that has three or more employees, they’re required to have workers’ compensation coverage for their workers. And I always like to talk a little bit about the history of workers’ compensation. You know, in the old days, kind of the society belief was that workers were an interchangeable part, and if you broke a worker, you just threw them on the scrap heap, and pulled in a new worker, and went ahead.

With our more modern, with the Industrial Revolution, as we became more modern, we realized that workers are humans, and they’re very, very important. And that’s how we came up with the workers’ compensation system, as a system for compensating injured workers, who were hurt on the job as a result of an accident. Now the important thing to remember with workers’ compensation is you have to be hurt as a result of an accident.

Cindy Speaker:  Okay.

David Daggett:  Just having a malady by getting old, that’s not an accident. An accident is a trip, a fall, getting hit, something like that. That’s what an accident is. The exceptions are for a hernia, a back injury, and there is a couple other real small exceptions that you don’t have to have an accident, but you do have to have what’s called a specific traumatic event-

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett:  Meaning you bend over to pick something up, and you feel a pop-

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett: Or something like that.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett: And there is some exceptions. And you know, the books would fill the room if we went into all the law.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah, I’ll bet. Yeah.

David Daggett: But the important thing is workers’ compensation is for when you get hurt at work. Now when you get hurt at work, you’re required to fill out a form, and submit that to the Industrial Commission. And your employer is required to fill out a form, and submit it to the Industrial Commission. Okay? That’s a requirement, and technically you’re supposed to do that as soon as possible. Although, there is a statute of limitations that’s usually about two years. But you want to get that filled out, sent into the Industrial Commission. That’s what starts your claim.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett:  And it doesn’t hurt to consult with an attorney at the beginning.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett:  But where you really need an attorney is if you’re out of work for an extended period of time, you have a traumatic injury that requires surgery, or some other type of ongoing medical treatment, but particularly in a situation where you have an injury that affects your ongoing earning capacity into the future. Either you’ll have to be retrained, or you simply can’t go back to that type of work, which probably means you can’t return to making the same level of wage.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett: If that’s the circumstance, there is no question you need to consult with an attorney, and see if you need outside help, to help you look after your situation.

Cindy Speaker: Okay. Tell us a little about the process, and what to expect from that process.

David Daggett:  Remember a lot of people can be a little hesitant to file a workers’ compensation claim because a lot of people like their employer-

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett: They like their boss. What you have to remember is that the claim is usually dealing with your employer’s insurance company, not your employer. Okay? And in workers’ compensation, it’s far more direct. It’s straight with your employer’s insurance company. And just like when you’re in an auto accident, the person that hit you might be a nice person, but the insurance company is looking out for themselves.

Cindy Speaker: Right.

David Daggett: They’re not looking out for you.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett: In workers’ compensation, the workers’ compensation insurance company, they’re looking out for themselves. They’re not looking out for you.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett:  And that’s why you need to consult an attorney, is to make sure you’re being looked after. And it’s very important because in workers’ compensation you’re talking about your ongoing income. That doesn’t just affect you, that affects your family, your kids, yours kid’s education. Your entire livelihood.

Cindy Speaker: Right.

David Daggett: Workers’ compensation is extremely important. The way workers’ compensation works is basically what happens is you get paid 2/3 your average weekly wage, up to the statutory maximum, for the time period that you’re out for what’s called total disability. And then you’re also entitled to compensation for any permanent disability that you have beyond that point in time. Many times a permanent disability is presented in the form of a disability rating. And so if you have a 10% disability to your arm, that goes into a formula, and that’s how you get paid.

However, it’s more complicated in that because if you have a 10% disability to your arm, but you can’t go back to being a carpenter, or whatever the case may be-

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett:  Your damages may be more significant than that. And that’s why you need to have an attorney involved on your side-

Cindy Speaker:  It sounds very complicated.

David Daggett:  It’s very complicated.

Cindy Speaker:  Very complicated.

David Daggett:  It’s complicated, and it’s very tricky.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett:  The laws are tricky. A couple years back they changed the laws to make it more difficult for injured workers. And there is some traps out there for people that aren’t used to doing it, or for lawyers who don’t do this on a regular basis, and do it all the time.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett:  There is traps out there, and those can be devastating-

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett: For an injured worker who is depending on their income for themselves, and their family.  The complicated nature, or the tricky nature, some of the very complicated medical situations we see. For example, injured workers particularly with back injuries. There is a lot of bad back injuries for injured workers. We deal with a lot of cases where the worker has a spine stimulator, and medical issues that are extremely complicated. And the lawyers in our firm, they are very adept at looking at these medical records, dealing with the medical providers, dealing with the doctor’s office, to make sure that we weave through that medical system to get you the best possible result that we can. And to make sure that your interests are looked after going into the future.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah. Well, from what you’re saying, and as complicated a process as it seems to be, it kind of sounds to me like it would just be prudent to check with an attorney, regardless of whether or not you have trouble. Just to get a little advice because these kinds of things you’re talking about, the average person is not going to know how to navigate that.

David Daggett: No, that’s correct. The other thing is that people don’t understand that is there a whole court system dedicated to the workers’ compensation system. That’s through the North Carolina Industrial Commission, and that’s a court process just like any other court process.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett:  And once you get involved in that, you can get over your head very, very quickly. It’s very important to get advice there.

The other thing that’s interesting, and a lot of people ask questions about this, is how do lawyers get paid? In workers’ compensation, we get paid on a percentage, which means we don’t get paid unless we recover and win. The other thing is, and this is a little bit unique that we do, is we take a lot of claims for seriously injured people, but we don’t take a fee, or charge a fee for the ongoing benefits. We only base our fee on the settlement at the end.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett:   The benefits, the 2/3 of the average weekly wage that we discussed earlier, you need that for your family.

Cindy Speaker: Yes.

David Daggett: And we don’t … Our firm is a little bit unique in that. We don’t charge a fee.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett:  Even though we’re monitoring, and helping, and making sure that those checks come on a regular basis.  Because you need that for the ongoing support of your family.

Cindy Speaker: Do most personal injury lawyers take a fee off that weekly benefit?

David Daggett: Some do.

Cindy Speaker:  Some do. Okay.

David Daggett: I don’t want to say most.

Cindy Speaker:  Yes.

David Daggett: But some do.

Cindy Speaker: Well, that’s definitely an advantage that you don’t.

David Daggett:  Well, the advantage is, is many times claims don’t get denied at the beginning. The fate comes later on.

Cindy Speaker: Okay.

David Daggett: And getting us involved early doesn’t cost you anything.

Cindy Speaker: I see.

David Daggett:  But we’re fully involved, up to speed, monitoring, making sure your benefits are accurate.

Cindy Speaker: Right.

David Daggett:  And we’re fully prepared for when that fight with the insurance company comes later down the line.

Cindy Speaker:   Yeah.

David Daggett: Does that make sense?

Cindy Speaker:  It does make sense. Yeah, it definitely does. I think, yeah.

David Daggett: Quite frankly, that provides a very, very valuable service.

Cindy Speaker: Yes.

David Daggett: And we have a terrific workers’ compensation team. Griff Shuler leads that team.

Cindy Speaker:  Yes.

David Daggett: And they all … They do a terrific job. I think as you know, we survey all of our clients at the end of our cases.

Cindy Speaker:   Yes.

David Daggett:  And our workers’ compensation department just-

Cindy Speaker: Is off the charts.

David Daggett:  Oh, uniformly excellent, excellent comments.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett:  And they are, they’re off the charts.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah. [crosstalk].

David Daggett:  The support staffs, the paralegals. Everybody involved in that department.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett: Because they know what that means for those injured workers, and their families, and just how important that is.

Cindy Speaker:  Right.

David Daggett:  And we take that personally.

Cindy Speaker:   Yeah, yeah.

David Daggett: It’s kind of fun. You know me, I can’t stay seated very long. I like to get up and walk around. And when I go through our lobby, it’s interesting, we have a lot of former workers’ compensation clients who we’ve just developed such good relationships with, that they stop by just to see us. Sometimes, to bring us tomatoes out of their garden-

Cindy Speaker:  That’s awesome.

David Daggett: Or a homemade cake. And it’s just … Those relationships are very, very important to us.

Cindy Speaker:  Oh. Yes, that’s fantastic. Well, David, let me ask you something else because sometimes, and I’ve heard this in my circle of friends, someone who was injured on the job, down the road a little bit, all of a sudden they get fired. What do you do in that situation? Is there any remedy? A way to combat that? Or is it just no choice?

David Daggett: Well, there isn’t. Well, there is. Under the statute you can’t get fired because of your workers’ compensation claim, or because you file workers’ compensation. And if it’s retaliatory in any way, obviously we can jump in-

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett: And there can be damages for that retaliation. But many times what happens is people lose their job during a workers’ compensation claim, simply because the employer can’t hold the job open for that long.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah.

David Daggett: Or because the injured employee simply isn’t going to be capable of doing that job in the future. That’s why it is so important to have somebody involved who knows what they’re doing, who’s on your side to look after your rights, and make sure you and your family are taken care of in those situations.

I’m sorry I couldn’t give you a straight yes or no answer to your question, but it’s a little bit more complicated than that.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah, yeah.

David Daggett:  And we deal with it all the time-

Cindy Speaker: Right.

David Daggett: And that’s part of our job, is to handle those issues-

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah.

David Daggett:  And to look after those people that are in that situation.

Cindy Speaker: Yeah, yeah. Well, we should really do a followup on this ’cause there’s a lot here.

David Daggett:  Yes. Yeah. We don’t want to go too long. But yeah, when you’ve been injured at work, and it cuts off your income earning potential, or your livelihood, I mean, that’s as serious as anything of us ever deal with.

Cindy Speaker:  Oh, yes. That’s right.

David Daggett: And you need to make sure you’re properly prepared.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah, yeah.

David Daggett: We have a lot of information on our website, DaggettShulerLaw.com. Folks can call us at 336-724-1234. We do give a lot of free advice. We’re happy to do that. If it’s a situation where you don’t need a lawyer involved, we will tell you. But if you do, we’re here, and we’re ready to go.

Cindy Speaker:  Yeah, I know you are. Listen, fantastic stuff. And thanks for all you do, David.

David Daggett: Yep, yep.  Good talking with you, Cindy. Thank you so much.

Cindy Speaker: Okay. All right, to those of you watching, live or by replay, feel free to leave your comments right on this page. You can also call. David gave you a number, a website address. And we want you to get the information that you need. Thanks so much everybody. Bye.

 

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