In Maryland, all workers compensation cases are governed by the Maryland (state) Workers Compensation Commission (WCC).
A case is commenced officially by filing a claim form. Countless cases come to me where an insurer has opened up a case but no claim has been filed with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Since the WCC is totally independent of the insurer, it happens quite frequently. If there is no claim filed with the period of limitations, the claim is barred by law. Generally, the limit is 2 years for accidental injury claims or up to 3 years for an occupational disease claim. Death claims generally must be filed within 18 months of the date of death. These are provided as a general guide and are not intended to provide legal advice or guidance on your particular claim. Claims should always be filed as soon as possible. Please call my office with any questions. Time is critical in most all issues in your workers compensation case.
There are additional requirements regarding providing notice of your claim to the employer. The procedures differ to varying degrees in death cases (which involve issues of dependency) and occupational disease claims (e.g. hearing loss, lung claims, repetitive motion claims). The main distinction between accidental injury claims (AI) and occupational disease claims (OD) is circumstantial. To greatly generalize, AI claims happen at a specific moment in time; OD claims happen over a period of time or gradually.
After your claim is timely filed with the commission, the employer has until the consideration date to challenge the validity of the case by advancing one or more of several defenses. If it is challenged, your case will be set for a hearing – if it is not, you will receive what is known as an “Award of Compensation and Average Weekly Wage” from the Commission. A case can be challenged on many different fronts and if your case is set for a hearing, it is all the more critical you get representation immediately.
We will be happy to examine and evaluate your paperwork/claim. Just call for an appointment. We obviously cannot provide you any specific legal advice here on your particular claim. This information is not intended to provide a legal solution or advice for anyone.
If you have any questions, you should not hesitate to give us a call because of the very strict and precise time limits involved. Your delay can cause your case to be dismissed, lose benefits or be disallowed by the Commission.
Once your claim is properly filed – the process of “filing issues” is how a claimant/attorney bring matters to hearing at the WCC. Generally, the WCC has hearings in LaVale, Maryland (currently the Comfort Inn) about 4 times a month on Monday and Tuesday mornings. The cases are called generally in the order they are filed and all the hearings are generally noted/scheduled at 9:30 a.m.
Issues arise in cases regarding being paid for missing work due to the claim: (temporary total or temporary partial disability, also known as TTD/TPD ), and after this, the lasting effects of the injury/claim: (permanent partial or permanent total disability benefits, also known as PPD/PTD) or a myriad of treatment and vocational issues. Causal relationship or reasonableness and necessity are defenses that can be an issue in nearly all types of hearings.
A workers compensation hearing itself is generally less formal than Circuit Court but do follow the rules of evidence. Hearings can vary widely depending on each Commissioner’s style of operation. After your hearing, you will usually receive your WCC decision in less than 30 days. These can be appealed into the applicable Circuit Court by either employee or employer/insurer. Cases can be resolved by agreement (stipulation or settlement), by Award of the Commissioner, or ultimately by jury and appellant court – should the case proceed through the levels of appeal. Settlement can be very complicated due to medicare and social security’s interests. Sometimes a settlement can leave medicals or other benefits open by agreement. You should certainly never attempt to go to a hearing or settle a case without the help of an attorney. There are simply too many considerations for someone unfamiliar with the process, I have always considered the medical coverage under Maryland WC to be very important and most often, this prevents any kind of final settlement, most often in the more serious case.
In rare instances, there is an agency concerning pre-existing injuries called the Subsequent Injury Fund (SIF). They can be involved in cases where a claimant has had both a serious previous and serious subsequent injury. These cases are rare but can be good for the Claimant if they are involved. On the other side of the coin is the unfortunate instance where an employer is not insured. This understaffed agency is called the Uninsured Employers Fund (UEF). These cases can take a very long time to resolve for many reasons. I hope I never have to explain the particulars to you.
Costs in all workers compensation cases, of course, cannot be avoided. There are costs for medical records, evaluations by doctors for evidence among other costs but we try to keep them to a minimum as we generally advance costs in all cases we take. Last, attorney fees are regulated by COMAR and are also subject entirely to the determination of the Commission. In other words, you cannot be charged a fee unless it is awarded and determined in accordance with the COMAR regulations by a Commissioner. These fees are charged in connection with TTD/TPD, PPD/PTD hearings or through the settlement process. Many hearings and issues do not provide for a fee.
I have been litigating Maryland Workers Compensation cases for over two decades. I have seen lots of changes happen both in the law and in the procedures. We have litigated nearly every issue in Maryland Workers Compensation law. I know that I can help get you the most out of your workers compensation claim. Feel free to call the office and schedule an appointment about your case. Remember, there is no fee for the initial consultation about your Maryland Workers Compensation case. I am confident my experience will benefit you.