Understanding Your Union’s Workman’s Comp for Construction Work
Many Minnesota construction unions participate in the Union Construction Workers’ Compensation Program (UCWCP). This system provides special coverage and protections for workers in the construction industry. However, it can be challenging to navigate UCWCP’s policies and procedures, especially if you’re experiencing a chronic illness or stress injury related to your work. Read on to learn how the UCWCP rules and regulations function and what to know before filing a claim.
What Conditions Are Covered Under UCWCP?
Any work injury or occupational disease, including carpal tunnel syndrome, tennis elbow, and other stress injuries, can be the basis of a workman’s comp claim under UCWCP. The injury must have occurred or arisen after your employer and union joined the program.
You should have evidence that you were injured on the job while performing your duties. This includes injuries from malfunctioning or broken equipment, falling items, explosions, or fires that arose from unsafe conditions. However, you do not need to prove that your employer was negligent to file a claim. Covered conditions also include fall injuries, crush injuries, burns, shocks, broken bones, and other injuries caused by accidents while you were doing your work.
Under UCWCP, you can also claim benefits for stress injuries, such as tendonitis, bursitis, or carpal tunnel syndrome caused by repetitive motion or heavy tool use. Any diseases linked to workplace hazards, such as cancer, asbestosis, blood disease, or asthma, also qualify for UCWCP assistance.
You can build a case whether your injury was acute and led to temporary loss of wages or chronic and caused you to exit the workforce. Your medical expenses, including rehabilitation treatment and hospital bills, can also be included in workman’s comp. Any disability, whether temporary or permanent, qualifies if it stemmed from a workplace-related injury.
Am I Required to File a Claim through UCWCP?
If both your employer and your union are participating in UCWCP, then you must pursue workman’s compensation through the program. You can’t use the standard Minnesota workman’s comp procedure.
You need to inform your employer within 30 days that the injury occurred or, in case of repetitive stress injury, within 30 days of the clear, consistent onset of symptoms. You technically have up to three years to file a claim, but as the process can take a while, aim to file sooner rather than later.
Can I Use My Own Doctor’s Diagnosis?
Your primary care physician or specialist’s findings will be used in your case, but in the event that another party disagrees with the findings, your file may be sent to UCWCP’s list of neutral healthcare providers. They may give you an examination, review your chart, or give additional assessments of your condition. UCWCP pays the fees for these neutral physicians.
You may also be requested to receive a neutral physician’s examination if the UCWCP determines that more information is needed, or if they believe that another exam would help resolve your case.
What Happens When I File a Claim?
First, a facilitator will be assigned to your case. This person may work for UCWCP or be contracted by the program. They will not be connected to either your employer or the union. The facilitator coordinates both parties in the dispute, including their legal counsel. In the best-case scenario, you and your employer will assess the facts of your injury and its relation to your work, then come to an arrangement in which you will receive benefits for medical expenses, lost wages, and any equipment or services you’ll need for rehabilitation and recovery.
If the parties can’t reach an agreement, the facilitator will issue a determination about whether or not the benefits will be paid. You can then go to mediation, but the determination will be in effect until that happens.
What Happens If My Claim is Denied?
If you or your employer disagree with the facilitator’s decision, the case may go to mediation. The party applying for mediation must act within 60 days. You must present the facilitator with your reasoning for why the determination is fair or unfair.
The mediation process takes no more than 21 days, and you must cooperate with the mediator during this process. The mediator is the one who reviews and approves any proposed settlements. You can’t seek the next level until the mediation is complete. After that, you have 30 days to request further arbitration.
The final decision is made by an arbitrator not connected with the program, your employer, or the union. You will not be permitted to communicate directly with the arbitrator unless your employer is also present. Once a settlement is reached, the arbitrator must sign off on it. Any ruling made at this stage is final.
I Don’t Have Legal Counsel. Can I Still File a Claim?
If your case goes to mediation and you are not represented by a lawyer, UCWCP will pay up to $500 for an attorney of your choice to review the settlement. However, it’s important to note that this option is only available during the mediation phase.
Without representation, your employer could misconstrue your injury as a pre-existing condition — especially if it’s a repetitive stress injury. You need someone to advocate for you. Ideally, this person can help you present your evidence and requests during the facilitation phase. If anyone doubts your injury’s cause or severity, your legal representation will go to bat for you. It’s important to have this foundation for your case before you reach arbitration, where you will have limited opportunities to argue your case.
If you are injured on the job or due to your workplace conditions, and your employer and union both participate in the Union Construction Workers’ Compensation Program (UCWCP), it is your right and responsibility to report the injury and file a claim. The process can be confusing, but with the right representation, you can receive benefits that are invaluable as you seek treatment, recover from your injury, or make adjustments for your short- or long-term disability.
For compassionate, expert legal representation in your workman’s comp claim, contact Sundquist Law Firm. We’re here to help Minnesota’s union construction workers obtain the benefits they’re entitled to.