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Privacy concerns in a workers' compensation case

All Minnesota employers are required to become self-insured or obtain a workers' compensation insurance policy, according to state workers' compensation law. This system is set up to provide benefits to workers who have become ill or suffered injuries in the workplace. These benefits are provided without regard to fault on the part of either the employee or the employer.

In order to receive workers' compensation benefits, an employee must file a claim. The documentation for the claim may contain sensitive information such as medical records. Injured workers may be concerned about the privacy of such information.

In order to protect claimants' privacy, the Department of Labor and Industry takes specific precautions. There are restrictions regarding who may view the contents of a claimant's file. The only people who are allowed to view the file are state agency staff members, the employer at the time of the incident, the employer's insurer, the adjuster for the employer's insurer, the claimant, the dependents of a deceased employee and any person with written permission from the claimant's dependents or the claimant. In addition, the Department of Labor and Industry assigns a unique number to each claim, known as the worker identification, or WID number. This number will be the only identifier on outgoing correspondence.

A workers' compensation lawyer may address privacy and other concerns on behalf of a claimant who has become ill or injured in the workplace. In addition, the lawyer may negotiate for the maximum allowable compensation. If a dispute arises during negotiations, the lawyer might need to pursue an appeal. It is worth noting that an employer is not permitted to retaliate against a worker who is seeking workers' compensation benefits.

Source: Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry, "An employee's guide to the Minnesota workers' compensation system ", October 13, 2014

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