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Compensable Injuries

When one least expects it or can least afford it, injuries often occur that create medical or other expense, limit one's ability to work such that wages suffer, or result in other consequences. The most common sorts of injuries a person might suffer include intentional injury, injury in the workplace, injury due to auto or product or premises accidents, or injury suffered due to professional negligence.

When someone else intentionally injures you, you are entitled to compensation for any costs or damages that result. Intentional injuries include assault, or placing you in fear of imminent injury, battery, or actual physical injury, false arrest, false imprisonment, intentionally inflicting emotional distress, trespass on your land, wrongful taking of your property, and wrongful detention of your property, among others. If there is personal injury, compensation may be obtained for physical injury, pain and suffering, humiliation, disgrace or loss of dignity, as well as monetary losses such as medical expenses or lost wages. In some cases, punitive damages may be obtained, that is, a monetary award designed to punish the party for the action. If there is wrongful detention, use, or destruction of your property, compensation may be obtained for any costs of repair or replacement, or fair market rental.

In Maryland, the Workers' Compensation Act is designed to address most workplace injuries and provide a means for speedy resolution. It is a no fault insurance system that allows employees compensation for covered injuries while protecting employers from civil suits. Workers' Compensation compensates people for accidental personal injury or occupational disease arising out of and in the course of employment. That is, the injury must be sustained as the result of an accident or due to work activity so outside one's normal work duties that the work can be considered unusual. Personal injury requires proof of actual physical or mental harm. Workers' Compensation does not cover damages to property such as clothes, tools, or vehicles. It does, though, cover occupational diseases, that is, some illness or disorder that can be expected to arise from conditions or activities inherent in the employment. Further, the illness or disorder must cause actual inability to perform one's work duties. The phrases “arising out of” and “in the course of employment” are also key concerns. If causation can be established between the work duties or conditions and the resulting injury or disease the claim might be covered. If the injury or disease results independently of the work duties or conditions it does not “arise out of” the employment and will not be covered. “In the course of” refers to the time, place, and circumstances under which the injury or disease occurred and these must reasonably relate to one's work duties for coverage to occur. Many government and private employers have policies concerning the reporting and treatment of workplace injury or illness, so it is important to be aware of one's employer's policy in this regard. It is often useful to have your own doctor examine you even if the employer requires examination by its own doctor, for the latter may have an incentive to try and reduce compensation the employer may be obligated to provide.

When one is injured in an auto accident, or due to a defective product, or an unsafe condition on someone else's premises, there are certain common concerns. Because of the speed and confusing manner in which accidents occur, it is best not to state any opinion as to who might be at fault. Determining fault usually requires a complex legal and factual analysis and you should not limit your right to compensation by mistakenly attributing fault to yourself. As soon as an accident occurs you should obtain the other party's name, address, and insurance information. You should also obtain names and addresses for any witnesses who may have seen the accident. Take or obtain photographs of the scene, auto, product, or premises involved, as well as any injuries sustained by you or your property. Keep receipts or records for any expenses, including medical, repair, or lost wages. Be sure to seek medical examination to ascertain the true extent of your injuries, if any, and treatment that will be required. Finally, do not accept any payment from the other party at or near the time of occurrence of the incident, for you may be giving up your right to full compensation by accepting a quick settlement.

People often hire professionals to provide services beyond what they can do on their own. Such professionals include doctors, nurses, accountants, lawyers, among others. When professionals perform in a negligent manner they can be subject to malpractice claims and compensation obtained. Some of the questions asked include, did the professional owe a duty to the injured person? Did the professional breach that duty? Was there a resulting injury to the person proximately caused by the breach of duty? What injuries did the person sustain? What statute of limitations, that is, what legal time in which a claim must be made, applies, and does it start running from the time the negligence occurred or from when it is discovered?

This brief discussion of compensable injuries is meant only as an overview of the subject matter, and not a complete presentation. Because of the many legal rules and requirements for obtaining compensation due to injury, a lawyer should be consulted.