The Answers You Need for the Questions You’re Forced to Ask
One of the worst aspects of pursuing a case—whether you’re fighting for injury compensation or trying to settle a divorce—is not knowing what to expect. Before you get yourself knee deep in the details of your case allow us to answer some of your questions first. We’ll help you be more fully prepared and more confident as you move forward.
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Is it legal that my employer self-insures instead of purchasing workers’ compensation insurance?
All employers who are subject to the Workers' Compensation Act are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance under Rhode Island law. However, it is possible for employers to pay for the costs of a work injury out of their own profits instead of purchasing workers’ compensation insurance (known as self-insuring). These employers must meet eligibility requirements and go through a certification process in order to legally provide benefits to injured workers.
Rules for Self-Insured Employers in Rhode Island
There are a few different ways an employer can offer its own workers’ compensation benefits, such as self-insuring by statute (applies to municipalities), or to become certified by the Department of Business Regulations as part of a self-insurance group. The most common way for businesses to self-insure is to be certified by the state Division of Workers' Compensation (DWC). The certification process takes approximately 60 days and requires:
- Proof of financial guarantee. Every applicant for workers’ compensation self- insurance must be financially secure and must provide evidence of guarantee of coverage with minimum limits of several thousand dollars. Applicants may also be required to carry commercial stop-loss insurance during their first five years of self- insurance to ensure all employee claims will be paid.
- DWC investigation. A DWC investigation may include employer site inspections, feasibility studies, financial obligation requirements, records from a parent guarantor; bonding and payment facilities, and other requests necessary to satisfy the DWC that the employer is eligible for approval or re-certification.
- An administrative hearing. Initial approval will only be granted after a hearing before the Director of the Department of Labor & Training to review the results of the DWC investigation.
- Adherence to workers’ compensation rules and regulations. Self-insured employers are still required to comply with all requirements of workers’ compensation laws, including data processing regulations, workers’ compensation procedures, and the rules and orders of the Workers’ Compensation Court.
- Commitment to payment and reporting standards. Employers are responsible for paying application fees and yearly assessments to the RI Workers’ Compensation Fund, submitting payroll records and other documents to the DWC in a timely fashion, and renewing certification every year to prevent lapses, revocation, or expiration.
If you need help accessing your workers’ compensation benefits, simply fill out the online contact form on this page, or call Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum to set up a consultation with our work injury attorneys.
Should I accept a workers’ compensation settlement?
Rhode Island workers’ compensation settlements are usually final decisions. That means, once you and the workers’ compensation insurance company agree to a settlement, you are unlikely to get any future compensation for your workplace injuries. Thus, you need to make sure that the settlement fairly compensates you for all of your injuries before you accept it.
Types of RI Workers’ Compensation Settlements
In Rhode Island, you may agree to one of the following types of workers’ compensation settlements:
- Denial and Dismissal Settlement. This type of settlement is used in disputed claims and settles before liability is determined. The injured worker agrees that his claim will be denied and dismissed in exchange for payment. The insurance company pays out a lump sum to the employee but doesn’t acknowledge liability, and the employee must pay all medical bills as a result of the injury. Often, the employee will be asked to resign from his position as a condition of the settlement.
- Commutation Settlement. In this type of settlement, the insurance company has already admitted liability and has paid your workers’ comp benefits for at least six months. The settlement will be for all the rest of the workers’ comp benefits you may receive.
Both types of settlements are final, and you give up your right to receive any future workers’ comp benefits, including medical coverage, beyond what is included in the settlement that you sign.
We Can Help With Your Workers’ Comp Settlement
It’s important that you understand the extent of your injuries before accepting a workers’ compensation settlement. Thus, your doctor should determine that you’ve reached maximum medical improvement for your injuries or illness.
Before you accept any settlement, you should consult with our experienced Rhode Island workers’ compensation attorneys. We will review your medical records and the proposed settlement amount to make sure that the settlement provides you with fair compensation under Rhode Island law. Call us, or reach out to us via this website today to learn more.
How long do I have to file my truck accident lawsuit?
If a negligent truck driver caused your truck accident, it is important to understand the basics of how to file your claim for compensation against the trucker and the trucking company’s insurance company. One of the most important laws you need to understand is the statute of limitations.
What Is the Statute of Limitations for Filing Your Truck Crash Lawsuit?
The statute of limitations is the time period you have to file your civil lawsuit against the trucker and trucking company. Every state has its own law setting this deadline. In Rhode Island, how long you have to do so depends on what type of compensation you are asking for. Here are the time periods that could be applicable in your case:
- Personal injury. If you are suing for compensation because you suffered personal injuries, the statute of limitations is three years from the date of your truck accident.
- Wrongful death. You may file a wrongful death action if a loved one died in a truck collision. You must file your lawsuit within three years of the date of death—not the date of the crash.
- Property damage. The statute of limitations is 10 years from the date of the accident if you are filing a civil suit for property damages. This could include the cost of repairing your vehicle.
What Happens If the Statute of Limitations Expires?
If you file a truck accident lawsuit after the statute of limitations has expired, the penalty is harsh. The trucker and trucking company will most likely raise this as a defense, and the judge will dismiss your case.
You can avoid this by retaining an experienced truck accident attorney soon after your collision. Even if you have time before the statute of limitations expires, you want to hire an attorney as soon as possible to build a strong claim of negligence and protect your legal rights. Start an online chat to schedule your free consultation today to find out how we can assist you.
Do I need an attorney for an uncontested divorce?
If you and your spouse agree to end your marriage, you may file an uncontested or no-fault divorce in Rhode Island. For the court to grant your uncontested divorce, you and your spouse must agree on every aspect of your divorce agreement. However, many people seeking uncontested divorces in Rhode Island still benefit from legal counsel.
Four Reasons to Consult an Attorney
Even if you and your spouse agree to end your marriage, there may be some necessary negotiations about how to divide your property, how to share custody of your children, whether alimony will be provided, and whether child support will be provided. An experienced divorce attorney can:
- Advise you of every option, so you’re confident in the decisions you make
- Make sure that all of your legal rights are protected before you sign a legally binding divorce agreement
- Prevent you from making mistakes or creating unnecessary delays in your divorce proceedings by making sure all of the paperwork is filed correctly and on time
- Take the stress out of negotiating directly with your spouse by handling negotiations on your behalf
How to Get an Uncontested Divorce in RI
Rhode Island does not have a special procedure for getting an uncontested divorce. Generally, you will need to file for divorce claiming irreconcilable differences, and you will need to explain to the court that both you and your spouse agree on the reason for the divorce and the specific terms of your divorce.
The divorce process will start when one spouse files for divorce at the clerk’s office at the local court. The other spouse will then have the opportunity to answer the divorce complaint. Then, the court will set a hearing date. You typically must bring witnesses to this hearing who will testify that you have been a Rhode Island resident for at least a year and know that you and your spouse have irreconcilable differences. After the hearing, additional forms must be submitted to the court. Once everything has been approved, you will be divorced.
The divorce process may be easier when both spouses agree to end the marriage, but it can still be complicated. Now is the time to make sure your rights are protected. Let us help you end your marriage with as little stress and as much certainty as possible. Call our Cranston divorce lawyers today, or reach out to us via this website to learn more.
Can an employer fire me for filing a workers’ compensation claim?
While most people know that workers' compensation provides medical and lost income benefits to workers who suffer an injury on the job, they may not know of the additional employment protection it affords a worker after filing a claim. Some employers may be tempted to threaten or harass an employee to discourage him from filing a claim, or the employer may simply want to fire the employee. If this happens, employees can take action against the employer to recover civil damages for unfair treatment.
Protection From Employer Retaliation
To ensure that employees are able to collect their work injury benefits without punishment, workers’ compensation laws prohibit employers from taking adverse action against a worker who has brought a claim in good faith. The employee is protected from retaliation immediately after the qualifying injury occurs, even before the claim is filed or the employer notified of the accident.
Under workers' compensation laws, employers are forbidden from retaliating against workers in the following ways:
- Termination. Workers' compensation laws typically prevent an injured worker from suing an employer. However, if the employee was laid off or fired because he sought workers’ compensation benefits, he may bring a retaliatory discharge lawsuit against the employer.
- Workplace harassment. Employers may make threats against employees who file claims, including blacklisting them from future job opportunities.
- Discriminatory treatment. Discrimination can come in many forms, including disciplinary action, salary reduction, demotion, being passed over for promotion, or being assigned a new title or another position.
- Forced leave. Employers cannot force an employee to use or forfeit accrued paid time off, paid medical leave, pension benefits, or other earned income in lieu of workers’ compensation income replacement benefits during recovery.
If you believe you have been discriminated against or discharged in retaliation for seeking workers’ compensation benefits, we can examine the details of your case and help you get what you’re owed for your injury. Simply fill out the easy online contact form on this page, or call Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum to set up a consultation with our work injury attorneys.
How can I find the right divorce lawyer for me?
Once you have made the decision to separate from your spouse, you may turn to the internet to search for an attorney who can handle the case. While online research is a helpful first step, it can quickly become overwhelming, as there may be hundreds of attorneys near you. With so many lawyers who could handle your case, how do you find the one that’s right for you?
Finding the Right Attorney to Handle Your Divorce
The most important thing when selecting an attorney to handle your divorce is to choose a family law attorney. All law firms have areas of focus such as personal injury, business law, workers’ compensation, and estate planning. Your chosen attorney does not need to handle divorce cases exclusively, but one who regularly works in divorce and family law has a much better chance of obtaining a favorable outcome for you.
The right divorce attorney for your case will be the one who:
- Has experience in your type of divorce. There are many different ways to separate from a spouse, including mediation, collaborative divorce, and litigating the case in court. The divorce process you use will depend on the specifics of your case and whether you and your spouse can work together during separation. Spouses who divorce amicably may only need an attorney to act as a legal guide to help them file paperwork, discover and divide all assets, and update financial documents and estate plans after separation. On the other hand, if your spouse is hiding assets or threatening to leave you penniless, you will likely need an attorney with trial experience.
- Addresses your specific needs. Ask yourself: what is most important to you in your case? Is it custody of your children, obtaining spousal support, or moving on as quickly as possible? Are you concerned about dividing business assets or getting a fair portion of the marital property? The answer can steer you toward the right person to achieve that goal.
- Communicates well and keeps you informed. The right attorney should never make you feel as if you are a bother or that you are not a priority. When you meet with an attorney, don’t be afraid to ask questions about who will be working on your case and how often you will be updated on its progress.
If you need more information on filing for divorce in Rhode Island or have child custody questions, we can help. Please contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum today via our online contact form.
How can I help someone in my family going through a divorce?
When someone you know announces her divorce, it can be very difficult to know how to respond. Grandparents may be afraid of losing access to the couple’s children, siblings of one spouse may become angry at the other, and friends may simply stay away because they are unsure of how to act. If someone you love has decided to divorce, there are a few things you can do—and avoid doing—to show your support.
How to Be Supportive of Someone Getting a Divorce
Divorce can place an enormous strain on family relationships, and it is often hard for those involved to ask for help. If a friend or family member is going through a divorce, here are some ways you can help make things easier:
- Be a good listener. Couples often hide their problems until they announce a divorce, and as a result, the divorce comes as a surprise. Even if you don’t know what to say, it can be helpful just to listen. If the person is comfortable talking about it, be a sympathetic listener, and if she doesn’t want to talk, let her know that’s okay, too.
- Avoid taking sides. If someone tells you she’s getting divorced, she’s likely hurting and in need of sympathy. However, you should resist the urge to badmouth her spouse. No one except the couple really knows what goes on in a relationship, so try to stay impartial and decline voicing judgments.
- Be careful what you say. When people hear that others are getting a divorce, their first response may be unkind. Many will want to offer advice, give their opinion, or even say “I told you so.” Above all, do not repeat any conversations with a divorcing friend or family member to others. Even if these responses come from fear or shock, your friend is relying on you for support, and these behaviors are not helpful.
- Make an open offer of help. Ask your friend if there is anything she needs (such as financial help, child care, or a temporary place to stay), and work together to come up with a solution. If she declines help, let her know you are available if she thinks of anything she may need in the future.
- Stay present. Many spouses put off filing for divorce because they are afraid that everything in their lives will change. It can be a great comfort to a divorced friend to continue to treat her as you always have, including maintaining your relationship with her children. Friends and family can be of great help in the transition of divorce just by staying in contact and maintaining a sense of normalcy.
If you need more information on filing for divorce in Rhode Island or have child custody or support questions, please contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum today via our online contact form.
Why should I see a doctor after a car crash if I don't feel injured?
It’s understandable that you would want to go straight home after being involved in a car accident. The stress of talking to police officers, notifying family members, and spending hours at the accident scene can be overwhelming, and you just want to get back to comfortable and familiar surroundings. However, victims who fail to get medical attention before returning home may have a more difficult time with a personal injury claim.
Why Seek Medical Treatment After a Car Accident
It’s easy to make mistakes after a car accident, but refusing medical care is one of the most costly. Some victims may assume they are not seriously injured, while others may fear the cost of emergency room treatment. No matter what your condition is after an accident, it is always worth it to be checked by a doctor before you return home.
There are many reasons victims should see a doctor after a crash, including:
- Preventing further injuries. When it comes to your health, it is always better to be safe than sorry. A checkup after an accident can detect conditions that appear minor at the outset (such as hematoma or compartment syndrome) that can be fatal if left untreated.
- Collecting medical evidence. Victims are often in shock after a crash, causing their brains to block the worst of the pain in their bodies. This is why people who report minor injuries at the scene may feel debilitating pain in the days after the crash. If victims wait to see a doctor, the injury may be attributed to something other than the crash. X-rays, scans, and diagnostic tests performed hours after the crash can serve as vital evidence of your injuries.
- Protecting your accident case. The adrenaline rush of a crash can cause victims to say things that can hurt them later, even if they are not in their right state of mind. If you tell police officers at the scene that you are “fine” or refuse to be examined by emergency responders, it may be recorded and used by the insurance company. However, if you consent to medical treatment and a serious injury is detected, your initial remarks are easier to ignore because you are not a medical professional and you acted like a reasonable person by going to the hospital.
The attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum offer free initial consultations for injury victims and do not charge for services until your case is resolved. Contact us today via our online form to schedule your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.
What penalties can an employer face for not having workers’ compensation insurance?
Employers can face significant penalties for failing to protect their employees with workers’ compensation insurance. First, the employer can be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000 per day for each day insurance is not provided. Employers can also face criminal felony charges, which carry a sentence of up to two years imprisonment and/or a fine of up to $10,000 upon conviction. Finally, if the failure to secure workers’ compensation insurance is determined to create a significant danger to employees, business operations can be suspended until workers' compensation and employers' liability insurance is secured.
When Your Employer Doesn’t Provide Workers’ Comp
If you suspect your employer does not have insurance, you can report Rhode Island workers’ compensation fraud to the Fraud Prevention and Compliance Unit. As long as you make a complaint to the Fraud Unit in good faith, the employer cannot take any legal action against you for making the report.
The Fraud Unit can help in a variety of matters concerning bad faith on the part of an employer, including:
- Premium fraud. Employers may not have sufficient insurance to cover work-related injuries due to premium fraud such as underreporting the number of employees in order to pay less for insurance. Premium fraud is a criminal offense.
- Falsifying claims information. Any employer who intentionally makes false statements to prevent an employee from filing a claim or obtain benefits may be prosecuted.
- Encouraging fraud. Employers may be charged with a criminal offense if they encourage workers not to file claims or command workers to report any work-related injuries they suffer as happening outside the workplace.
- Penalties. Any person convicted of workers’ compensation fraud may be ordered to pay monetary penalties up to $50,000 and face imprisonment for up to five years.
If your employer did not secure workers’ compensation insurance, you and your fellow employees are not prohibited from filing lawsuits against the employer. For this reason, you should speak to an attorney as soon as possible after an injury at work. Simply fill out the easy online contact form on this page, or contact Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum at 401-946-3200 to set up a consultation with our work injury attorneys.
What is an open and obvious risk in a slip and fall claim?
Slip and fall cases will usually involve some degree of negligence on the part of the property owner. If the owner knew or should have known about a defect on the property or did not warn visitors of the defect, the owner can be held responsible for the injuries the defect causes. However, there is an exception to this rule: the “open and obvious” doctrine.
Owners May Not Be Responsible for an Open and Obvious Risk
Rhode Island courts have held that property owners are not responsible for warning visitors of any open and obvious hazard on the premises that could cause injury. The theory is that the risk is so obvious, a reasonable and prudent person would have taken steps to avoid it, making the victim the negligent party. In an “open and obvious” defense, the property owner may accept that the open condition caused injury, and even that he failed to warn about the condition—but may not agree as to fault.
In most cases, recovery for an open and obvious risk case will depend on:
- Negligence. All premises liability cases are decided based on which party was negligent. Failure to warn of a dangerous condition or failure to fix the condition are types of negligence that can be attributed to the property owner. On the other hand, a jury may find a victim to be negligent if he should have seen the hazard and realized it was dangerous but did not try to avoid it.
- The nature of the condition. In order for the open and obvious doctrine to apply, the defect must be large, plainly visible, unobstructed, or otherwise easily identified. Types of open defects might include construction on the property, rolls of new carpeting, or piles of snow.
- Evidence of the risk. The burden is on the victim to provide evidence of the dangerous condition. However, if the victim does not take photographs at the scene, the property owner may make repairs while the victim is recovering, making the case more complicated.
- Degree of fault. Even if the condition is ruled open and obvious, Rhode Island injury laws allow victims to recover damages even if they are mostly at fault—but the amount of damages will be limited by the victim’s percentage of fault.
If you have been injured in a slip and fall accident, the attorneys at Kirshenbaum & Kirshenbaum offer free initial consultations for injury victims and do not charge for our services until your case is resolved. Contact us today via our online form to schedule your initial consultation with a personal injury lawyer.