Maine Workers' Compensation Law:
Frequently Asked Questions and News

Frequently Asked Questions

Our team has handled thousands of Workers Compensation cases, resulting in recovery of millions of dollars in benefits, medical expenses and substantial settlements. We have represented workers throughout the state of Maine – from Portland to Eastport and Sanford to Fort Kent.

What is worker’s compensation?

The State of Maine’s program that is designed to help people who are injured at work.

What should I do if I am injured at work?

You should tell your employer as soon as possible that you have been injured. If you were injured on or after January 1, 2013, you are required to tell your employer of your injury within 30 days of your injury date. If you wait more than 30 days after the injury, you may lose the right to receive workers’ compensation benefits. [If your injury was before January 1, 2013, you may have up to 90 days to report your injury.]

Will I be paid for the wages I lost because of my injury?

Yes, if you miss more than 7 days of work, you are entitled to receive weekly compensation benefits. If you lose between 7 and 13 days, you will be paid for those days. If you miss more than 14 days, you will be paid for all of the days missed from work.

How much will I be paid while I am unable to work?

If you were injured between January 1, 1993 and December 31, 2012, your employer will pay you 80% of your after-tax average weekly wage. If your injury occurred on or after January 1, 2013, you will be paid up to 2/3 of your average gross weekly wage. [Your work-related medical bills will also be paid.]

Can my employer mistreat me or discriminate against me if I file a workers' compensation claim?

No. Your employer cannot discriminate against you or mistreat you for filing a workers’ compensation claim or for testifying in a workers’ compensation hearing. If you think your employer has discriminated against you because you filed a claim or testified, we can file a Petition to Remedy Discrimination. If your employer is found to have discriminated against you, the employer may be ordered to give you your job back and pay you for your lost wages, lost benefits and reasonable attorney fees.

What if the work accident was my fault?

With some minor exceptions – even if the accident was your fault, you will be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Can I collect workers' compensation if I am an independent contractor?

The answer is “maybe”. The real question is whether you are actually an “independent contractor” as opposed to an “employee”. If you fit the definition of “employee” that is contained in the Maine Workers’ Compensation Statute then you are entitled to full workers’ compensation benefits if you are injured while working, even if the person or company you were working for thought you were an independent contractor. Likewise, even if you called yourself an "independent contractor" this does not mean you are considered an independent contractor for purposes of Workers’ Compensation benefits. Unlike most of the requirements of the Workers’ Compensation Statue, the burden of proof is on “the employing unit” to demonstrate that a worker is an independent contractor – otherwise he/she is presumed to be an employee.

Where does Irwin & Morris Represent Clients?

The partners at Irwin & Morris have been representing injured workers for over 30 years. We have gradually expanded our practice to the point where we now cover the entire state – and we have offices in Augusta, Brunswick, Newport and Portland.

Can I go to a doctor for my injury?

Yes, however for the first ten days, your employer has the right to choose a health care provider to treat your injury. After the first ten days you may choose your own health care provider.

Will my employer pay for my mileage expenses and prescription drugs?

Your employer should pay for medicine and for mileage to and from your health care providers. The employer is also required to pay for necessary durable medical equipment such as wheelchairs, braces and hearing aids.

How long may I receive treatment for my injury?

You should receive coverage for all related reasonable treatment until you recover from your injury.

Can my employer force me to see another doctor?

If you are treating with a health care provider of your own choice, your employer can require you to see a different doctor for a “independent medical exam.” These doctors are chosen by the employer/insurance company. [This is referred to as a Section 207 exam.] Your employer can also require you to see a second doctor for a second “independent medical exam.”

Do I have to agree to have a case manager?

No, in fact we strongly recommend that you do not have a case manager. These managers are employed by the employer’s insurance company and report directly to the insurance company regarding anything you report to them or to your doctor while they are present.

What if I can go back to work, but I cannot earn as much as I used to earn?

If your injury stops you from earning as much as you used to earn, you may receive partial benefits.

Will my employer have to pay me for my pain and suffering?

No, unfortunately unlike a lawsuit brought in court, your employer does not pay for your pain and suffering.

If I cannot work due to my injury, will I lose my health insurance and other benefits from my employer?

Workers’ compensation rules do not require that your employer continue to pay your fringe benefits while you are out of work. However, you may be able to continue those benefits if provided for in your employment contract or under the Family Medical Leave Act.

Can I receive vocational training if I am unable to return to my job because of my injury?

You may be entitled to receive vocational rehabilitation – including job retraining and job placement services.

How long can I receive benefits for lost time?

Regardless of your date of injury, you may receive benefits for as long as you are completely unable to do any work. If your injuries allow to you to do some work (partially incapacitated) you may receive benefits for a maximum of 520 weeks. [However, if your partially incapacitating injury has caused you a high whole-body permanent impairment and you meet a work requirement, you may receive benefits beyond 520 weeks.]

The memorandum of payment I received states that my “claim is voluntary payment pending investigation.” What does that mean?

This means that your employer is paying your claim even though it is not admitting that you are entitled to those benefits. This type of payment is often called “payment without prejudice.” By doing this your employer keeps the option of reducing or even eliminating all of your benefits by serving you with a 21-day notice of discontinuance.

Can my employer stop paying benefits without my agreement?

If your claim is being paid without prejudice, your employer can stop your benefits by filing a 21-day certificate of discontinuance.

What can I do if I receive a 21-day certificate of discontinuance?

You can file a Petition for Review and request a provisional order asking a Hearings Officer to temporarily continue your benefits before a hearing is held.

How much does it cost to get an attorney to represent me?

At Irwin & Morris the initial consultation and review of your case is free. If we later represent you, the attorney fees are set by state statute. If we recover ongoing or past wage benefits for you, the attorney fees are 30% of those benefits. If your case is settled for a “lump sum” of money, your attorney is entitled to a percentage of that settlement amount as set forth below: Ten percent (10%) of the first $50,000 of the settlement; Nine percent (9%) of the first $10,000 over $50,000 of the settlement; Eight percent (8%) of the next $10,000 over $50,000 of the settlement; Seven percent (7%) of the next $10,000 over $50,000 of the settlement; Six percent (6%) of the next $10,000 over $50,000 of the settlement; Five percent (5%) of any amount over $90,000 of the settlement.

Can I sue my employer in court for my work injury?

No, but you might be able to sue someone else who played a role in causing your injury.

Does my employer have to give me my job back?

If you are able to return to work, and your job is open, your employer must offer you your previous job. If your job has been filled, or if your injury prevents you from doing that job, your employer must give you a job that you can do even with your injury. Your employer must also must make changes to a job that will allow you to return to work, as long as the changes would not impose an undue hardship on your employer.

What if I can work but I can not find a job?

If your injury stops you from being employed you may be able to still receive your full workers’ compensation benefits. You must show that your injury prevents you from getting other work. This usually requires an extensive work search on your part. You will need to apply to available jobs and keep a list of each job that you sought.

What is the statute of limitations?

The statute of limitations is the time limit within which you must file a claim for benefits. Once the statute of limitations expires, you cannot make a claim for further benefits. When the statute of limitations prevents you from receiving benefits is dependent on a number of factors including: the date of your injury; when you reported your injury; whether your employer filed the appropriate paperwork; and whether any benefits have already been paid. If you have any concern regarding whether you may be beyond the statute of limitation, you should immediately contact an attorney or the Workers’ Compensation Board.

My case is scheduled for mediation, do I need an attorney?

There is no easy answer to this question, rather the answer is dependent on the complexities of your case and your individual circumstances. Mediations are primarily conducted by telephone where you or your attorney will briefly present a summary of your case, and the employer will then present defenses to paying you benefits. Specific issues or your entire case may be resolved at the mediation upon the agreement of the parties. If your case is not settled at mediation then it may proceed to a formal hearing.

Can I get an impartial doctor to evaluate my case?

Either side may request an independent Section 312 medical examination. If approved, the Workers’ Compensation Board will assign an impartial medical provider to exam you and your medical records. The provider will issue an opinion as to whether your injury is work related, what work restrictions you require and address other issues. The Section 312 provider’s report will be binding upon the Workers’ Compensation Board unless there is ”clear and convincing evidence” that the provider’s findings are wrong.

What is a formal hearing?

The formal hearing is your opportunity to present your case to a Hearing Officer. Both you, your witnesses and the employer’s witnesses will appear and testify under oath before a Hearing Officer. The Hearing Officer will review your evidence, and the evidence that your employer presents. After the hearing, the Hearing Officer will write a decision. The decision is binding on you and your employer. However, either side may appeal that decision to the Workers’ Compensation Appellate Division.

If you have additional questions or want more information, please call us at 207-772-0303, or simply fill out the contact form on this page.

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Recent News:

Do I Have a “Workers Compensation” or “Personal Injury” Case? - June 8, 2017

When you are injured on the job, your first concern is recovering to the point where you can return to work. Recovery often includes time off from work, medical expenses, and a general disruption to your life. Injuries place a huge burden not only on you, but also on your family.

Workers Compensation covers most workplace injuries that require you to miss work, including those caused by you (although some exceptions apply). For example, if you bend over to pick up something heavy at work and you injure your back, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits even though nobody (including you) made a mistake or did anything wrong to cause the injury. The system is designed to quickly assess injuries, begin treatment, and offer compensation to the injured party in the form of medical coverage, lost wages, and retraining if needed. However, compensation is limited to actual treatment expenses incurred, while lost wages paid are typically two-thirds of your average gross weekly wage. In most cases, this payment can continue for up to 520 weeks but is limited by your capacity to return to work, even partially.

A Personal Injury claim differs from Workers Compensation in two important ways. First, it can only be applied if someone other than the injured person did something wrong, resulting in the injury. Second, in most instances the only limitations on compensation are defined by the award or settlement of the case. Recovery in personal injury cases can include compensation for “pain and suffering”, loss of enjoyment of life, as well as punitive damages if gross or intentional, wrongful conduct can be proven. Successful personal injury cases can result in compensation well above the million dollar range depending on the injury, as well as the level of wrongdoing.

When a person is injured on the job, and the injury is caused by someone other than a co-worker, a personal injury case can be filed concurrently (together) with a workers’ compensation claim. The workers’ compensation claim is filed against the employer, but the personal injury claim will not be filed against your employer. It will be filed against the person or company that caused the injury. For example, if you are driving a delivery truck while working and are hit by another vehicle that ran a red light, you may claim Workers Compensation from your employer and you may also file a personal injury case against the driver of the other vehicle. The difficulty with Personal Injury cases is that negligence or some other “mistake” or wrongful conduct by another person must be proven. Without such proof, a personal injury award cannot be given.

Talk with us at Irwin & Morris if you have been injured on the job and are unsure how to proceed in order to receive compensation. We will provide you with a free initial consultation to evaluate your case. We can help you to move your case forward regardless of which option that you should choose, so that your primary focus will be on your recovery.


Previous Post:

Should an Employer Direct Your Care After a Work Injury? - Nov 7, 2016

After your injury, your employer or insurance company might tell you that you must see a specific doctor or other health care provider. Often they send you to their “company” health clinic because they hope their doctors will appreciate the business, and in turn cooperate with their efforts to keep worker’s compensation costs down.

What the employer or insurance representative usually do not tell you is that the workers’ compensation law in Maine only gives them control over your care for the first 10 days after you begin treatment for your injury. After that, you are entitled to select your medical providers without interference from your employer or the insurance company. Additionally, even during this 10-day period you may go to a doctor or provider you choose; however, you might be held responsible for the bills for that 10 days of treatment.

The employers and insurers use their control over the first 10 days of treatment as a way to start the process with doctors and clinics of their choosing, and often the injured worker simply keeps treating with those same providers. This is exactly one of the goals the employers or insurers are trying to achieve.

We at Irwin & Morris strongly advise our clients to be wary of such tactics. We encourage clients to seek care from your trusted primary care physician or other medical professionals that have no connection to your employer or the workers’ compensation insurer.

It is vital to both your workers’ compensation case and to your own recovery that you obtain excellent and unbiased medical care. To that end, often employer-directed care is not in your best interest.

Additional Articles:

Harassing and Bullying in the Workplace After a Work Injury - Oct 3, 2016

All too often a worker is injured only to suffer the further insult of having their employer or supervisor bullying them in hopes that the worker will abandon their Workers’ Compensation claim. This bullying can take many forms including ignoring work restrictions, implying that the worker is “faking” or exaggerating the injury, suddenly changing work hours, spreading rumors, filing false disciplinary actions, or even firing the worker.

This harassment results in further stress, anxiety and even post-traumatic stress disorders. The bullied worker often feels helpless in the face of this onslaught by management. This bullying is a violation of the Maine Workers’ Compensation Act and should not be allowed to go unchallenged. While discrimination is often difficult to demonstrate - you can greatly aid your case by following four steps.

1. Keep a notebook that documents every instance of bullying - for example write down every conversation or action taken by your boss that discriminates against you. (Be sure to list the date, time and anyone else who heard or saw the discriminatory act.)
2. Clearly present to your boss or Human Resource person your work restrictions - these should be provided to you by your doctor and are on a one page “M-1 form.”
3. Get a copy of your personnel file - you are legally entitled to your file and having a copy will help assure that your employer does not add false complaints or disciplinary actions.
4. If the bullying does not end, or if you suspect that you could be fired or let go from your job, you need to contact a lawyer immediately.

The Workers’ Compensation Board can award you back wages, reinstate fringe benefits, help you get your job back, and gain payment of your attorney fees if your case is successful.


At Irwin & Morris our experience can help you.

Contact us today for a free consultation.

(207) 772-0303 

Irwin & Morris Locations

Map of Portland, Maine office

Portland

183 Middle Street
P.O. Box 7030
Portland, Maine 04112
Phone: 207.772.0303

Map of New Gloucester, Maine office

New Gloucester
(Pineland - Auburn Hall)

60 Pineland Drive, Suite 202
New Gloucester, ME 04260
Phone: 207.725.0000