Larson Latham Bliss Huettl Top2 - 3 Circle Image Address

Find An Attorney | Practice Areas | Our Clients

Firm Profile | Service Area | Seminars

Phone Numbers
Find An Attorney Home Contact Us

Attorneys

Bullet Point Larson, Gregory C

Bullet Point Latham, Steven L

Bullet Point Huettl, Damian J

Bullet Point Germolus, Paul C

Bullet Point Knoll, David M

Bullet Point Haas, Dean J

Bullet Point Hays-Johnson, Denise C

Bullet Point Turner, Tyrone J

Bullet Point Thompson Gordon, Robin

Bullet Point Temanson, Paul A

Bullet Point Leibel, Steve L

Bullet Point Larson, Samuel G

Bullet Point Merkens, Paul J

Bullet Point Goetz, Carey A

Bullet Point Lindquist, Megan J

Bullet Point Fauske, Austin D

Bullet Point Fetch, Stephen A

Bullet Point Votava, Christopher K

Bullet Point Keefe, Ryan A

Bullet Point Gunderson, Paul J

 

Of Counsel

Bullet Point Peterson, David L

 

Legal Staff

Bullet Point Jacober, Char J

Bullet Point Defoe, Jen J

Bullet Point Horner-Flores, Marlene

Bullet Point Arbach, Rosanne M

Bullet Point Smith, Charlene B

Bullet Point Coleman, Robin R

Bullet Point Anderson, Lynette J

Bullet Point Krueger, Patricia R

Bullet Point Johnson, Gayla

Bullet Point Carver, Lydia

Bullet Point Boespflug, Lee D

 

Workers Compensation

The following information is not intended as legal advice, and deals exclusively with North Dakota Workers Compensation Law.  Please contact Steve Latham or Dean Haas if you are interested in obtaining legal representation. Mr. Latham has over 30 years of experience in worker’s compensation matters, and Mr. Haas has over 25 years of experience, including 12 years as WSI counsel.

1. What is the purpose of Workers’ Compensation?

2. If I am injured at work, what should I do? What are the requirements concerning giving my employer notice of the injury at work?

3. How is my claim filed with North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance and what are the filing requirements?

4. What does my doctor need to know about my injuries?

5. What injuries, diseases, or conditions are compensated under the North Dakota’s Workers Compensation Law? What is an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment within the meaning of the North Dakota’s Workers Compensation Act?

6. My doctor says that my injury at work was a substantial contributing cause of my problems.  What does a “substantial contributing cause” mean? I have heard that there must be objective medical evidence of an injury. What does that mean?

7. WSI says my injury merely triggered my problems, but has not worsened by condition and denied benefits. What does this mean?

8. Are all workers covered by the North Dakota’s Workers Compensation Act? What if I am an independent contractor? Does my employer have to purchase Workers’ Compensation coverage?

9. What if I get injured and my employer doesn’t have Workers’ Compensation coverage?

10. What if someone other than my employer or a co-employee is at fault for my injury, such as in a car accident, through medical malpractice, or injury from a defective product?

11. If I sustain a work-related injury or disease, what benefits are available?

12. How are my medical fees paid, to me or providers? What medical billings will Workers Compensation Insurance cover? As to covered medical benefits, am I liable for co-payments or deductibles? How long do medical benefits last? What should I do if WSI denies my claim, and I have outstanding unpaid medical bills?

13. When is compensation payable for my lost wages? How is the disability compensation determined, and how long does “temporary total” disability last? What happens when I am released with work restrictions, and have a “temporary partial” disability?

14. My doctor has told me that I will be at “maximum medical improvement” soon.  How are my Permanent Partial Impairment benefits calculated after I reach maximum medical improvement? Am I entitled to Permanent Partial Impairment benefits if I am not disabled?

15. What should I do if I get into a benefit dispute with Workforce Safety and Insurance, and receive a decision denying my claim or a part of my claim?

16. When should I contact an attorney to represent me? Should I go to a hearing or settle my Workers’ Compensation case without using an attorney?

17. Why is it so hard to find legal counsel to represent me for my work injury?

18. If I hire LLH what can I expect about my attorney’s fees?

19. How do I contact an attorney and make an appointment? If I have been injured at work, will you evaluate my case and contact me?

1. What is the purpose of Workers’ Compensation?

The purpose of Workers Compensation is to provide sure and certain relief for workers injured at work, their families and dependents regardless of questions of fault. The second purpose is to shield the employer from lawsuits brought by employees for injuries at work. An employer who purchases Workers Compensation coverage cannot be sued by his employees in connection with a work injury or disease even if the employer was at fault; the exception is if the employer intentionally caused the injury.

2. If I am injured at work, what should I do? What are the requirements concerning giving my employer notice of the injury at work?
The first thing you need to do is to notify your employer of the accident.  Workers’ compensation law requires the employee to report the injury and the general nature of the injuries sustained to the immediate supervisor or authorized supervisor within 7 days of the accident. Many workers initially believe their injuries are minor, or do not realize the extent of their injuries, believing the injury may be confined to a shoulder, for example, when the neck was also injured. You should not minimize the extent of your injuries, because if you injure part of your body in the accident, but do not mention it to your employer or doctors until long afterwards, North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance may deny coverage for this part of the body. You should provide this “Notice of Injury” to your employer in writing and keep a copy for your records.
Your employer is required to report to WSI that you gave notice of the injury within 7 days. But this notice to your employer is not the same as filing your worker’s compensation claim with WSI.  If you do not file a claim, WSI will notify you that your employer has reported a notice of injury, but that no claim has been filed, and WSI will inform you that the claim MUST be filed within one year of injury. Do not delay filing. See # 3.
3. How is my claim filed with North Dakota Workforce Safety and Insurance and what are the filing requirements?
In addition to notifying your employer of the injury, you must ensure that your claim is filed with WSI. You can file the claim yourself, or it may be filed by your employer on your behalf. After your claim is filed with WSI your employer has 14 days to submit to WSI a response to the filing, or the claim is deemed admitted.

4. What does my doctor need to know about my injuries?
It is very important to accurately report to your doctors how your injury occurred, the extent of the injury and how the injury affected you, such as whether the injury is disabling. If you have had prior problems with the same part of the body for which you received medical treatment for the work injury, you should report that to your doctors. But if you had recovered from the prior problem, it is crucial that you tell your doctors that you had recovered from the prior problem by the time of the work injury.
5. What injuries, diseases, or conditions are compensated under the North Dakota’s Workers Compensation Law? What is an injury by accident arising out of and in the course of employment within the meaning of the North Dakota’s Workers Compensation Act?
Disease. Occupational diseases are covered under the ND Worker’s Compensation Act; an occupational disease means that that there is some causal relation between the disease and an employment exposure to chemicals, organic compounds and the like, that increases the risk that you will develop the disease to a greater extent than the risk to the general public.
Injuries. The Act covers both sudden accidents and repetitive injuries that are due to repetitive activities or stress at work, but repetitive injury claims can be difficult to prove. An injury by accident “arising out of” and “in the course of” employment can be quite broad.
“Arising out of employment” means that the injury has some kind of connection to a risk of work, or at least that the injury is not related to a personal risk. For example, an injury due to a fall should be compensated so long as the fall is not due to a risk personal to the employee. So too, an injury caused by minor horseplay at work should be compensated so long as there was not a significant deviation from employment.
“In the course of employment” means that the injury occurred at a time and place of work; injuries in an employer’s vehicle count, as do injuries in the employer’s parking lot. Generally, an injury sustained travelling to and from work (time for which you are not paid) and in your own vehicle is not covered, but there are exceptions, as when the trip is to a remote job site or is a special errand for your employer. If the injury occurs while you are on any work errand, you are covered under the Act, and you should file a claim with WSI.
Due to the complexities of the coverage formula, you should file a claim and consult an attorney if WSI denies you benefits. 
6. My doctor says that my injury at work was a substantial contributing cause of my problems.  What does a “substantial contributing cause” mean? I have heard that there must be “objective medical evidence” of an injury. What does that mean?
Your work injury (for accidents) or work exposure or duties (for repetitive injuries or occupational disease) must be a “substantial contributing cause” of your medical problems; your employment need not be the sole cause of the injury; rather the work injury must be a substantial contributing factor. The general rule is that the employer takes the employee as is. Thus, the fact that an employee may have physical conditions or personal habits which make him or her more prone to such an injury does not constitute a sufficient reason for denying a claim if the employee proves that it is more likely than not that the injury was causally related to the worker's employment with reasonable medical certainty.  
“Objective medical evidence” includes results from medical tests and examinations, and includes pain, provided that the physician makes objective findings such as muscle spasm, swelling, contusion, or trigger-point tenderness, and renders a diagnosis such as muscle strain.
7. WSI says my injury merely triggered my problems, but has not worsened by condition and denied benefits. What does this mean?

WSI may have concluded, as it frequently does, that your claim is not compensable because you had a pre-existing condition that was ‘merely triggered by work’ but the pre-existing condition itself was not made worse by the work injury. For example, take degenerative disc disease. Disc degeneration is a natural part of aging and over time all people will exhibit changes in their discs consistent with a greater or lesser degree of degeneration. However, not all people will develop symptoms. In fact, degenerative disc disease is quite variable in its nature and severity, and many people with radiographic evidence of disc disease will not even have any symptoms until after an injury brings it out. But WSI often concludes that even though you didn’t have significant back pain before a work injury, the cause of your back trouble is this natural aging, which WSI concludes is not made worse by the work injury. This answer begs the question: of course the degenerative process of aging itself isn’t worsened by the injury. But your back problem is much worse after the injury; before you didn’t need medical care and could work, now you need medical care, are in constant pain, and can’t work. Isn’t that a worsened condition? Yes, but you require counsel who can solicit the medical opinions you will need to get compensation.

8. Are all workers covered by the North Dakota’s Workers Compensation Act? What if I am an independent contractor? Does my employer have to purchase Workers’ Compensation coverage?
“Employees” are covered under North Dakota’s Workers Compensation Act and that includes people who work for wages or salaries in the state or for a North Dakota employer. A person working as a true independent contractor (generally a person who supplies their own tools, and works for several people or businesses) should purchase WSI for themselves because the policies of their general contractor or customer won’t provide coverage.  But any subcontractor that has employees must purchase coverage for those employees, and if the subcontractor does not, the general contractor may be responsible to pay the premiums.

Your employer must purchase coverage for all employees, unless in an exempt category, such as agricultural employment, domestic employment, railroad employees and members of the clergy. (Federal employees are covered under the Federal Act, and railroad employees have a separate system). Optional coverage is available for agricultural employers.

9. What if I get injured and my employer doesn’t have Workers’ Compensation coverage?

If an employer required by law to purchase WSI coverage fails to do so, you have the option to either file a worker’s compensation claim (in which case the employer will be subject to penalty), or sue the employer. If your employer has not purchased coverage and you elect to bring a lawsuit against your employer, your employer cannot assert the defense that a fellow employee caused your injury, that you assumed the risk of injury, or that the injury was caused by your own contributory negligence.
But when the employer purchases coverage, the North Dakota Workers Compensation Act insulates an employer against suit for monetary damages under most circumstances where the employer is covered by Workers’ Compensation insurance. 

10. What if someone other than my employer or a co-employee is at fault for my injury, such as in a car accident, through medical malpractice, or injury from a defective product?
You may file a lawsuit against the party at fault (other than your employer or a co-employee) that caused your injury. If you have also received workers’ compensation benefits and collect money from a party at fault, WSI will have a ‘subrogation’ right to recover a portion of your damage award to reimburse it for some of the benefits it had paid to you or your medical providers.
LLH can represent you in a law suit or claims arising out of an on-the-job accident or injury for which a third party is at fault—such as involving a motor vehicle accident, malpractice, or product liability issues.

11. If I sustain a work-related injury or disease, what benefits are available?
The benefits available under the ND Workers Compensation Act are medical expenses for diagnosis and treatment of your work condition (including travel over a certain number of miles to attend medical appointments); reimbursement for lost wages (disability); and vocational rehabilitation if retraining is necessary to end the disability. Permanent partial impairment benefits are available for loss of or loss of use of a member of the body, if the impairment is over 15% of the whole body. Permanent Partial Impairment benefits are not based on loss of wages, but cannot be calculated or paid until after the worker reaches “maximum medical improvement.”

12. How are my medical expenses paid, to me or directly to medical providers? What medical billings will Workers Compensation Insurance cover? As to covered medical benefits, am I liable for co-payments or deductibles? How long do medical benefits last? What should I do if WSI denies my claim, and I have outstanding unpaid medical bills?
Medical benefits are reimbursed directly to the medical provider. The provider must accept the WSI payment as full payment if they accept you as a patient. However, not all providers wish to treat people injured at work, largely on account of the paperwork involved for the provider. WSI covers all medical billings that are ‘causally related’ to the work injury. Many workers injure more than one part of the body, but WSI might decide that some parts of the body you believe were injured in the accident were pre-existing, or otherwise not related to the injury. If WSI makes such a decision denying medical coverage, you have the right to ask for reconsideration, and should persist through the multiple appeal levels.
Medical benefits under the ND Workers Compensation Act cover the entire medical cost of treatment, and do not have a deductible and don’t require you to make any co-payments. Medical benefits have no life-time limits, though all benefits (including medical) can be lost if your claim is deemed abandoned. Under the law, your WSI claim will be presumed closed (abandoned) if you don’t receive any benefits (including medical care) for a period of four years. An ‘abandoned’ claim can be reopened if there is clear and convincing evidence that the work injury is the primary cause of the renewed need for medical attention.
Should you disagree with any decision of WSI to deny your medical benefits claim (or any part of your claim for medical expenses) you should take steps to preserve your claim, and file a petition for reconsideration. If the denial concerns all medical benefits, or coverage of medical benefits for a specific body part, you should file an appeal with WSI. Due to the time delay in getting medical benefits reinstated, you should also provide a copy of the denial to your medical providers, and ask them to bill your general health insurance carrier (such as Blue Cross Blue Shield of North Dakota). You should do that because your general health insurer will pay your medical bills until your WSI claim is resolved, and if WSI later accepts your claim, WSI will pay the medical providers, who reimburse your health insurer. Asking your providers to bill your general health insurance carrier will ensure you are not billed for outstanding medical bills while your WSI appeal petition is pending.

13. When is compensation payable for my lost wages? How is the disability compensation determined, and how long does “temporary total” disability last? What happens when I am released with work restrictions, and have a “temporary partial” disability?
You are entitled to disability compensation if you are unable to work for a period of five consecutive calendar days because of your work injury. WSI pays a weekly benefit equal to 2/3 of your gross weekly wage, subject to a minimum of 60% and a maximum of 100% of the average weekly wage in the state. Permanent total disability benefits are paid for life (subject to a ‘retirement offset’ at age 65), but very few injuries are deemed to be permanent and total; the category is generally limited to loss of sight in both eyes; loss of both legs; loss of both arms; loss of any two members (eye, arm, leg); permanent and complete paralysis of both arms or legs or one arm and one leg; third degree burns over 40% of the body that require grafting; and traumatic brain injury affecting cognitive function to the extent it affects self-care. Individuals with few vocational skills who reach 25% impairment of the whole body might also prove entitlement to permanent total disability. In any other case, you are entitled to temporary total disability during the period you are not medically released to do any work, but temporary total disability benefits must end after 2 years. At that time, you may be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits; WSI will manufacture an ‘earnings capacity,’ based on the jobs WSI assumes you have the skills to do and are within your work restrictions. The amount of your alleged ‘earnings capacity’ will be subtracted from the full disability benefit WSI would otherwise have paid, and these partial disability benefits end after 5 years.

14. What does it mean that my doctor has told me that I am at “maximum medical improvement?” How are my Permanent Partial Impairment benefits calculated after I reach maximum medical improvement? Am I entitled to Permanent Partial Impairment benefits if I am not disabled?
The date of the your maximum medical improvement (MMI) means the date after which further recovery or lasting improvement to an injury or disease can no longer reasonably be anticipated based on reasonable medical probability. At the time you reach MMI you are likely entitled to a permanent partial impairment rating by a doctor to determine your award. This award is paid based on loss of or loss of use of a member of the body, which need not be disabling (render you unable to work). However, the statute has a 15% ‘deductible,’ so that only whole body impairment ratings at 16% and higher are compensated. The ratings are based on an older edition of the AMA Guides to the Evaluation of Permanent Impairment—5th Edition.

15. What should I do if I get into a benefit dispute with Workforce Safety and Insurance, and receive a decision denying my claim or a part of my claim?
The first thing you should do is read the denial letter, and follow the instructions, and file a WRITTEN request for reconsideration, rehearing, or assistance of the WSI Decision Review Office, depending upon the level of review. WSI first issues letters of denial; the proper response is to file a written request for reconsideration—which MUST BE filed within 30 days. After you do this, WSI frequently denies the claim again, this time by an administrative order. The instructions will advise you that you can ask for a hearing or ask the WSI Decision Review Office (DRO) for assistance. You should file that request with the DRO within 30 days. If you have not yet done so, you should consult with an attorney to advise you as soon as you file the petition for assistance with the DRO Office of WSI.
The Decision Review Office is part of WSI, and it is our experience that most workers will receive another denial from that office—called the Certificate of Completion. The law now provides an additional benefit—a payment of up to $500.00 of your attorney’s fees for the attorney to review your file after you receive the Certificate of Completion. This is your last best chance to retain competent counsel. Make sure that the attorney is experienced in representing injured workers, and is not seeking merely to do the review, and pass you along to other attorneys.
You have 30 days from receipt of the Certificate of Completion from the DRO to seek legal assistance, and you must file a request for hearing within 30 days of that date to retain your rights. A hearing will be held before the Office of Administrative Hearings, and this is the time when you are able to fully present your case, including calling witnesses, and presenting medical evidence your attorney has gathered (usually the opinions of your treating doctors).

16. When should I contact an attorney to represent me? Should I go to a hearing or settle my Workers’ Compensation case without using an attorney?
You should contact an attorney if you don’t believe you are able to file the written petition for reconsideration, or the written request for assistance with the WSI DRO. Once you have filed the petition for assistance with the DRO, and they issue a Certificate of Completion, it is crucial that you contact an attorney immediately. It is generally not a good idea to accept a settlement without legal advice. And in our experience it is absolutely necessary for you to obtain legal counsel at the Administrative Hearing level.

17. Why is it so hard to find legal counsel to represent me for my work injury?

Attorneys take on Workers’ Compensation cases for various reasons.  LLH is dedicated to a practice of law in workers’ compensation that may not be the most financially rewarding, but fills a real social need. Most attorneys do not find it economically possible to represent injured workers, and even those who do, will normally charge his or her customary and usual rate, less the fees paid by WSI if you prevail. Most attorneys require you to pay an up-front retainer to cover the expected fees. There is more bad news; WSI pays a fee of $135 per hour, and most attorneys bill at much higher rates, and ask you to pay the difference. Another problem finding an attorney is that fees are capped at 20% of the amount in dispute. But if the dispute concerns WSI’s denial that the claim is compensable, the fee cap of 20% of the amount in dispute does not apply.

For many years attorney’s fees were paid ‘win, lose, or draw.’ But the North Dakota legislature changed the laws in sweeping reforms that have greatly reduced injured worker’s ability to find legal counsel to represent them. Because of what many regard as unconscionable changes, WSI is able to low-ball and squeeze benefits to workers; the exclusive worker’s compensation carrier (insurer) in North Dakota—WSI—is perhaps the only kind of insurance company not controlled by bad faith statutes in the state of North Dakota concerning Workers’ Compensation matters.

18. If I hire LLH what can I expect regarding attorney’s fees?
WSI pays a ‘review fee’ of up to $500.00, if you have received a Certificate of Completion from the Decision Review Office. At the conclusion of the evaluation and review of your claim, LLH will advise you both about the merits of your case, and the applicable fee policy. LLH evaluates its attorney’s fee policy on a case by case basis. Any attorneys’ fees paid by WSI can be used to reduce the fee you owe—WSI will pay an attorneys fee only if the worker prevails, and subject to a cap of 20% of the amount in dispute. In addition to using any WSI paid fee to reduce your bill, LLH normally provides some of the lowest retainer requirements available. Finally, LLH generally caps your fee exposure to the amount of the retainer, and any work over the retainer is not billed to you. The Firm assumes considerable risk in doing so, but we believe our experience enables us to offer you ‘the best deal around.’

19. How do I contact an attorney and make an appointment? If I have been injured at work, will you evaluate my case and contact me?
We at the Law Offices of Larson Latham Huettl have 60 years’ combined workers compensation experience. If you suffer a work injury under the North Dakota Workers Compensation Act and a third person was at fault for your injury, you may want to hire an attorney to handle both the Workers’ Compensation claim and the personal injury action.  These sorts of actions are somewhat complicated and an attorney who does both will be an asset to you. 

Below you will find our Workers’ Compensation intake form, Notice of Legal Representation and Power of Attorney, and Release of Medical Information.  The intake form requires contact information, the name of your employer, social security number and birth date. We also ask whether you have received any WSI decision that gave you a 30 day deadline to respond.

The Power of Attorney form must include your claim number, and must be notarized. The Medical Release authorizes LLH to contact your doctors, because it is normally necessary for us to gather additional medical evidence or opinions. Once you have completed the forms, send them to us electronically to dhaas@bismarcklaw.com. Steve Latham or Dean Haas will get back to you as soon as possible. You may not assume that Larson Latham and Huettl has agreed to take your case until the attorney notifies you that he has agreed to represent you.

Workers Compensation Intake Form

 

Practice Areas

 

•  Agricultural Law

•  Bankruptcy

•  Business Entities & Formation

•  Commercial Law

•  Contracts

•  Criminal Law

•  Debtor-Creditor Relationship

•  Divorce & Separation

•  Elder Law

•  Estate Planning

•  Guardianship & Conservatorship

•  IRS Audits & Tax Litigation

•  Leasing & Renting Landlord-Tenant Relationship

•  Legislative & Government Relations

 

•  Malpractice

•  Nursing Home Planning

•  Oil & Gas Law

•  Personal Injury

•  Probate

•  Product Liability

•  Real Estate

•  Social Security Disability

•  Taxation

•  Trusts

•  Wills

•  Will Contests

•  Workers Compensation