Workers’ compensation is a payment made to an employee who was injured at their place of employment. The purpose for workers’ compensation is to cover the medical expenses accumulated by the injury, as well as financially support of the employee while they are recovering. Compensation may also be paid if the employee’s range of marketable skills necessary for their job is hindered by their injury. Workers’ compensation is awarded through a “strict liability” system, in which the employee is paid damages for their injury regardless of whether the injury was a direct result of an employer’s negligence. In other words, short of intentional self injury or extreme stupidity, the employer is almost always liable for a work-related injury.
First of all, the injury must be sustained on the work site. Any injuries received travelling to or from work are not covered by workers’ compensation. Additionally, the injury must be received through no fault of the victim’s. If the victim was intoxicated or otherwise brought the injury on themselves through foolish actions or the intent to recover damages, then they usually do not have a case. Injuries incurred at the place of employment, but not in the performance of an employee’s duties, are eligible for compensation. An example of this would be an injury received while in the cafeteria or break area. You do not necessarily need to be on-site for workers’ compensation to apply; if an employee is injured while running an errand for their employer they are usually covered as well.
Typical injuries that are covered by workers’ comp are illnesses or injury sustained due to exposure to noxious chemicals, injuries from malfunctioning equipment, back or neck injuries from heavy lifting, carpel tunnel syndrome, or extreme mental duress acquired by stressful tasks at work or harassment by a fellow employee or superior. Pre-existing conditions that have been worsened by activities on the job are also injuries covered by workers’ compensation.
You can only sue your employer for work-related injuries in certain circumstances. If an employer does not have insurance for its employee’s injuries or does not offer substantial compensation you may be able to pursue legal action. This is usually not a problem, however, since employers can be fined or prosecuted for criminal offenses by the state if they do not have the proper coverage.
If your employer does offer worker’s compensation there’s little else you can do. One of objectives of worker’s comp is to help employers reduce the number of lawsuits filed against them by employees. In exchange for the prohibition of lawsuits against the company, employees are entitled to a “strict liability” means of awarding damages, as mentioned above.
If you are injured by malfunctioning equipment in the work place you can also bring legal action against the manufacturer though a defective or dangerous products suit.
First of all, you should immediately inform your employer. If a pre-existing injury is aggravated you should file a complaint as soon as you notice the symptoms escalating. Secondly, you will need to file a claim form provided by your employer, being very specific with the details of your injury. Also, be sure to get a copy of the form for your personal records. Once the form is completed your employer should organize a compensation system with their insurance company for you. If your company is not covered for your injury, or the company fails to provide you with adequate compensation you should contact a workers’ compensation lawyer immediately. Adequate compensation is typically the coverage of all medical costs and about two-thirds to three-quarters of the pay you would be earning at work.
The source of problems with receiving worker’s compensation benefits doesn’t always come from the employer. Often enough, the employer will submit an employee’s insurance claim to their workers’ compensation insurance carrier, and the carrier will deny the claim. This denial must come with a list of reasons why the claim has been turned down, otherwise it is not legitimate. In either case you should immediately call or mail the carrier, asking to address the problem. However, if no change is made you may need to file a complaint with your state workers’ compensation office. Each state’s workers’ rights department has an easily accessible website, where you can find the proper information and help you need. However, if the state can only provide limited assistance you will most likely need to hire an attorney experienced with worker’s compensation cases.
Occasionally an employer will discourage an injured employee from filing for worker’s compensation. Regardless of what your employer may tell you, it’s important that you file a claim for compensation, otherwise, you will have no path to recourse since an employee cannot sue a company that offers compensation for an injury. Also, an employer may discriminate against an employee that files for workers’ compensation by harassment, reducing pay, demoting the employee, or even terminating their employment. If any of these discriminatory acts occur to you, then contact an employment lawyer immediately. Such discrimination is illegal and you may be able to file for a lawsuit.
If you have been injured at work, you need a workers’ compensation lawyer to make sure that you are adequately compensation for your injuries and inability to work. A worker’s compensation lawyer can navigate through the various laws to protect your rights and give you proper advice and counsel.
In evaluating a workers’ compensation lawyer, the most important factors to consider are experience, fee structure and simply whether you trust and get along with that lawyer. Typically, less experienced lawyers are more appropriate for minor injuries and claims. More severe or permanent injuries may require the services of a lawyer who has many years of experience in handling such claims.
Many workers’ compensation lawyers work on a contingency basis, which means that they will take percentage of any payout you receive resulting from their representation of you.