Workers’ Compensation law governs the benefit system which protects employees from on the job injuries. You should be aware that workers’ compensation benefits are state mandated and, therefore, the laws may vary from state to state. To be certain that you have protected your rights, you should seek the advice of an attorney when making a claim for Workers’ Compensation benefits. The purpose of Workers’ Compensation insurance is to assist employers by getting injured employees back to work quickly, thereby avoiding any loss of business for the company. The insurance will generally cover medical costs, a portion of your pre-injury salary, some expenses and vocational rehabilitation. The benefits are limited and generally do not cover all expenses.
These benefits are awarded to employees who are injured in an on-the-job accident, or other illness or injury due to an employee’s work routine or environment. This can cover repetitive stress injuries or exposure to toxins which may cause injury or health problems. Also, Workers’ Compensation can cover mental or emotion illness, such as depression, as a result of job stress, however, these problems are difficult to prove. An exception would be in the case of a traumatic event, which an employee may witness or experience on the job, that could lead to problems later requiring treatment or counseling. For instance, if a plant employee were to witness a fatal accident on one of the machines or if a cashier in a convenient store is held up at gunpoint, these situations might make them eligible for benefits, if there are psychological repercussions.
More common workplace injuries might include repetitive motion injuries caused from typing on a computer keyboard all day or turning the same bolt on an assembly line, as well as construction related injuries.
When presenting a claim for Workers’ Compensation, an employee must prove that his injury occurred while on the job and that it was as a result of the responsibilities of his employment. Also, the employee must show that the risk of injury was specifically brought about by performing his job. There are different types of risk, that is risk directly linked to employment, personal risk, and neutral risk. If an employee is injured on a machine at his workplace, that would be considered a direct link to employment, since he would have no reason to have been near such a machine other than for his job requirements. This would be covered by Workers’ Compensation. A personal risk situation would most likely not be covered by Workers’ Compensation, as it would involve the employee’s own choices rather than anything work related. For instance, if an employee were to contract lung cancer after 30 years of smoking, this could be considered a personal rather than employment-related risk, unless he could prove otherwise. The neutral risk is the most difficult to prove, as the injuries may happen at the workplace, but contributing factors that are not work-related may have caused the injury.
Regardless of who is responsible for the employee’s injury, employers pay the cost through Workers’ Compensation Insurance. If an employee is injured due to his own negligence, therefore, he is still eligible for Workers’ Compensation benefits. However, accepting Workers’ Compensation benefits means that the employee has forfeited any right to sue an employer for damages as a result of any injuries. If a third party is deemed either directly or indirectly liable for the employee’s injuries, however, the employee may sue that party. For example, if an employee is injured as a result of a mechanical malfunction on a piece of equipment he is operating, he can sue the manufacturer of that equipment. If he were to win a settlement, the employee would be required to reimburse the employer for all costs associated with his Workers’ Compensation claim.
Not all injuries are covered by Workers’ Compensation benefits, including self-inflicted injuries, those incurred during a fight, injuries incurred while breaking the law, injuries sustained while not working, and while an employee is violating company policies. Additionally, all employees are not covered, including shop owners, farm workers, railroad employees, maritime workers, volunteers, independent contractors and federal government workers.
Workers’ Compensation insurance is mandatory in most states, however some jurisdictions allow large companies to be self-insured, and some small companies need not be insured at all.