What Is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance that provides benefits and wages to people who were injured on the job. These compensation plans vary by industry and state, but most employees are entitled to some form of workers’ compensation.
Importantly, workers do not need to prove that their employers were negligent or at fault to receive workers’ comp benefits. It is a no-fault system.
How Does Workers’ Compensation Work?
The employee should report their workers’ comp injury or illness to their employer as soon as possible. In many states, the worker must report it within 30 days to be eligible for compensation. They should include specific details such as the date/time and location of the incident, the cause of the injury or illness, and the names of witnesses.
The employee must then undergo an immediate medical examination by an independent physician authorized by the employer. Without an independent medical examination (IME), the injured worker will not be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
The next step is to file the workers’ comp claim itself. The employer’s insurance company may deny the claim or try to limit how much it pays the worker, at which point the worker can appeal the denial and hire an attorney to bolster their chances of receiving benefits. The lawyer may reach a settlement with the insurance company that exceeds the insurance company’s original offer, or (if they’re not satisfied with the settlement offer) they may take them to court to seek a jury award in the worker’s favor.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Pay For?
Generally, workers’ comp benefits fall under four categories:
- Lost wages
- Medical treatment
- Disability benefits
- Vocational training (if the worker can no longer do their job)
The amount and even the existence of these benefits can vary greatly, depending on the injury, industry, state, and whether the worker has hired an attorney. In the case of lost wages, during their recovery, a worker might receive two-thirds of their regular salary delivered via check (or direct deposit) every two weeks.
But if the insurance company has denied that the injury occurred on the job, minimized the scope of the injury, and/or argued that the employee is an independent contractor, the worker could be denied compensation altogether.
What Types of Injuries Qualify for Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ comp injuries run the gamut, from back pain to hearing loss to mesothelioma. Any on-the-job injury can theoretically spur a workers’ comp claim, but here are some of the most common injuries for which workers file claims:
- Head and brain injuries (often from falling objects)
- Broken bones, torn ligaments, and herniated disks
- Hearing loss or damage Blindness or eye injury
- Tendonitis, repetitive motion, or aggravation injuries
- Burn injuries (from fire or electrocution)
- Illness from exposure to toxins (e.g., mesothelioma)
- Injuries to extremities such as the hands, feet, legs, etc.
These injuries can occur because of hazardous work environments, faulty machinery, inadequate training, or they may be unavoidable. As noted earlier, the employee does not need to prove negligence or fault to have a valid workers’ comp claim.
How Can a Lawyer Help?
A lawyer can assist with a workers’ comp claim to increase the employee’s chance of receiving full benefits. They will help navigate the thorny legal process, reviewing medical records, interviewing witnesses, and consulting experts. A good lawyer will build the strongest possible case so the injured worker can focus on getting better.
Importantly, most workers’ compensation attorneys are free to hire unless the worker recovers a settlement or jury verdict, at which point the attorney accepts a percentage of the money recovered.
Workplace injuries can devastate a person’s health, career, finances, and quality of life. A wounded worker can easily become buried under medical bills and depressed if they can’t go to work every day. They need an attorney and advocate in their corner to fight for them and help get their life back on track.
If you were injured on the job and you think you might qualify for a workers’ compensation lawsuit, please don’t hesitate to contact us.