Frequently Asked Questions About Workers’ Compensation
Q: Can I get a free consultation regarding my case?
A: Absolutely. Just call our office and speak to one of our intake specialists, give them some preliminary information and then myself or another attorney will go over your alternatives and our recommendations to secure the best possible medical care for your injury and secondly, to maximize the case value.
Q: What do you think is the most important benefit in a workers’ compensation claim?
A: The first goal is medical recovery. I have the gift of clients that are honest and sincere. Most just want to get well and get on with their lives. The system make it difficult to get the kind of care the injured worker would choose. It is our constant goal to “work-the-system” to get our clients the best care possible, the kind of care we would want in their place. Secondarily, we do not want our clients to be taken advantage of financially. Few injured workers recover all they have lost from the injury, so we want to maximize their financial recovery from the case.
Q: What if I am not getting the kind of treatment I need now?
A: Our first order of business, in almost every case, is to get our client to a doctor we trust, which is usually not the doctor chosen for you by the insurance adjustor. Guess what is most important to the adjustor? The adjustor’s priorities and concerns are not the same as yours. Most of the doctors chosen by the insurance company are loyal to the insurance company and want to remain in their good graces. We want to get you to a specialist oriented and loyal to your concerns and medical needs, not the concerns of the insurance company.
Q: How can you maximize the financial value of my case?
A: From the very beginning, everything we do is designed to neutralize the many adverse laws and rules that exist in California workers’ compensation. We constantly work to put the insurance company on the defensive, to give them something to lose. In California, workers’ compensation law is designed to protect the insurance companies and minimize the exposure of the employers (thanks to Governor Arnold!). So in this very technical area of law, we turn those technicalities around and use them against the insurance companies. I never apologize for aggressive tactics because this is a system that is simply unfair to the injured worker. I didn’t come up with this system, you didn’t either; we are stuck in this system and we have to turn it upside down at every chance to get fairness for our clients.
Q: How long will my case take?
A: The major determinant of the life of the file is the extent of your need for medical treatment. Ordinarily a case will not be settled until you have been given the treatment you need to recover from your injury. Cases can sometimes be settled sooner when there is a willing insurance company and a willing injured worker. I will work to get a case settled as soon as possible whenever my client feels ready.
When a doctor determines your condition, will not significantly change with additional treatment he says your condition is stationary and your residual is permanent. This is called “Permanent and Stationary” (P&S). It is alternatively referred to as Maximum Medical Improvement” (MMI). When this occurs, your “Permanent Disability”(P.D.) can be measured and your entitlement to a Life Time Award for Future Medical Care can be assessed. It is at this point that the actual value of the case can be determined. The major elements of value at the time of settlement is Permanent Disability and the Life Time Future Medical Award.
Q: Will my employer be mad if I get an attorney?
A: In almost all cases, our claim is really against the insurance company. Employers understand you have to take care of yourself. In this office, we do not make things up. When we are honest (we are always honest!) and our client is honest, we are just pursuing fairness. No apologies are necessary. Additionally, it is prohibited for any employer to discriminate against you for getting an attorney. Having said all that, we understand your relationship with your employer is important, and we will do nothing to compromise that.
Q: How experienced are you?
A: Mr. Meline has practiced workers’ compensation law now for over 30 years. The first half of his career “on the dark side” was representing insurance companies and employers. He has represented injured workers since 1998 and has handled thousands of cases, all kinds of cases, against any employer or insurance company. Adding to his practice, Mr. Meline has attorney Sean C Vargas, who has exclusively represented injured workers in thousands of cases over 10 years. Mr. Vargas previously worked with a very large law firm, where high case loads resulted in each injured worker not being given the attention necessary to ensure that they received all possible benefits for their claims. Alongside Mr. Meline, Mr. Vargas has the ability to truly devote the necessary time to do everything possible to secure the best result in your case.
Q: Do I have to go to your office to start my case?
A: No, you never have to travel to our office. We can facilitate everything without you making any trips.
Q: If I already have an attorney, will it cost to change to a new one?
A: No. In our office the attorney fee is always, and only, 15 percent of the settlement. If we take over your case from a prior attorney (It happens all the time) that 15 percent fee will be split between the attorneys. It will not cost you anything to change attorneys.
Q: How much Temporary Total Disability can I get?
A: Temporary Total Disability (TTD) is paid during the period you are in active treatment for your injury when you are “unable to return to work.” TTD indemnity is paid at a rate of 2/3 of your average weekly wage up to a maximum that is determined by your year of injury. If and when your doctor releases you to limited work you are then, “Temporarily Partially Disabled” (TPD). If your doctor says you are TPD, you are still entitled to receive TTD payments if your employer is unable to accommodate your work restrictions.
Governor Arnold added an arbitrary law to the labor code that says no injured worker is entitled to more than 104 weeks of TTD payments. So, if it is determined that you need specific treatments or surgery, you should get that done ASAP since your TTD benefit period is limited and could run-out.
Q: Can I apply for State Disability?
A: Yes, that is often a big help if your injury is denied by the workers’ compensation insurance company. I often encourage application for State Disability Indemnity (SDI) at the Employment Development Department (EDD) while I am proving the insurance company’s liability in court. State Disability payments never go for more than one year. Your maximum entitlement depends on how much you contributed to your SDI account through payroll deductions. At the end of your successful case ordinarily the insurance company will be required to settle any SDI/EDD lien on your case. You could be liable, however, for any SDI payments made while also receiving TTD or made after you are permanent and stationary .
Be aware that, if you apply for and receive State Disability Indemnity (SDI) from EDD the insurance company will receive credit for what was paid out in SDI against their 104 week TTD liability in your case. Also, if you apply for and received SDI for your injury after the 104 weeks of TTD has been paid out the court may subtract that amount received in SDI from your settlement..
Q: Does my Facebook page matter?
A: Insurance companies recognize that all social media websites are fertile ground for getting information when investigating injured workers. If you have filed a workers’ compensation claim, I recommend you take a look at your internet presence and assume the insurance company will do the same. I recommend you delete any information that would be contrary to your claim. What would that be? Well you may be required to testify about past activities. If the internet gives contradictory information about you, a good defense attorney will attempt to use that to damage your credibility and your case. Also, if you, or your friends, record information about your activities or employment after your injury that could be particularly damaging to your case.
Common sense goes a long way in this area. At this writing I have a case that includes my allegation that my client’s physical injury affected her mentally and emotionally. The defense attorney copied over a hundred pages from Facebook entries to try to show my client was doing fine emotionally and had lots of “friends.” I have some interesting counter arguments including that her extensive Facebook presence and “virtual life” may actually be a mechanism to avoid the painful realities of her actual life brought on by her injury.