Workers' compensation is a state-mandated insurance program that provides compensation to employees who suffer job-related injuries. An employee injured on the job is guaranteed benefits regardless of who was at fault. In return for workers' compensation benefits, employees usually forfeit the right to sue their employer in court for damages for their injuries. The rules regarding workers' compensation are very different than for other personal injury matters.
What Benefits Are Available under Workers' Compensation
Workers' compensation benefits typically include:
- Replacement income
- Medical expenses
- Long-term or lump sum pension if you are permanently unable to work
- Temporary disability pension while you are unable to work
Requirements for Workers' Compensation
In order to satisfy workers' compensation requirements:
- You must be an actual employee of your employer (i.e., not an independent contractor)
- Your injuries have to be work related
Processing a Workers' Compensation Claim
There are several steps you must follow in order to receive workers' compensation. You must:
- Promptly report your injury to your employer. Some states generally require notice within 2-30 days following the injury. If an injury or illness results over time you must report it as soon as you realize it was caused by your work.
- Get medical treatment and follow the doctor's instructions.
- File your claim with your employer's insurance carrier. Your employer must provide insurance claim forms.
- Save all copies of paperwork throughout the whole process.
Types of Injuries Are Covered under Workers' Compensation
Workers' compensation is designed to provide benefits to injured workers regardless of whether the injury was the employer's or the employee's fault. As long as your injury is work-related, it is covered under workers' compensation. Typical injuries covered are:
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Illnesses or diseases that are a gradual result of work conditions
- Traumatic physical injuries
- Repeated trauma injuries
- Mental injuries - when associated with physical injury
- Occupational diseases
Types of Injuries Are NOT Covered under Workers' Compensation
Workers' compensation provides for almost every type of injury that may occur at the workplace. However, several types of injuries remain uncovered:
- Self- inflicted injuries (including injuries to you when you cause a fight)
- Injuries resulting from the commission of a serious crime
- Injuries caused when your conduct violates company policy
- Injuries received while intoxicated or under the influence of illegal drugs
- Injuries where the employee was acting in a reckless manner
Who Is NOT Covered by Workers' Compensation?
Several classes of workers are not entitled to workers' compensation benefits. The following are employees not covered by workers' compensation:
- Business owners
- Independent contractors
- Federal employees (under the state's scheme)
- Domestic employees in private homes
- Farm workers
- Maritime workers
- Railroad employees
- Unpaid volunteers
Do I Need an Attorney Specializing in Workers' Compensation?
If you have been injured at work, your first recourse should be to file the proper workers' compensation insurance forms required by your employer. If further disputes arise, consultation with an attorney familiar with workers' compensation law should be sought. Speaking with the proper employment attorney will inform you of your legal rights as well as preserve any possible remedies you may have.