Worker's Compensation Laws Protect Workers From Injuries

Plans cover medical expenses and long-term or permanent disabilites.

One of the greatest victories for the American worker was the implementation of the worker's compensation system to cover workplace injuries. While worker's compensation limits the amount a worker can recover for a workplace injury to modest amounts, it ensures that medical expenses and compensation for long-term or permanent disabilities are awarded.

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Worker's compensation ensures such coverage by acting as a no-fault insurance system that does not determine if employers are liable for injuries suffered by their employees. When an employee suffers a workplace injury they need only file a claim to receive benefits instead of suing their employer and, thus, needing to prove negligence in potentially time-consuming litigation.

Notify Your Supervisor Immediately

Most cases are straightforward and require that you notify your supervisor as soon as possible after your injury. If you fail to notify your employer within the set time period, often only a few days, you may have your claim denied. Your employer is then required to submit a notice of your claim to the state industrial safety department, and you will need to file a claim with the state worker's compensation board.

The board will decide your claim and notify you of the amount of your compensation. Your employer may contest your claim if they feel it is not valid or to try and keep their premiums low. A hearing will then be held in front of a worker's compensation referee who will determine the validity of the claim. Both you and your employer can appeal an adverse decision, but you should consult an attorney at this point if you have not done so already.

Some Workers Not Covered

Some types of workers are not covered by workers compensation such as business owners, independent contractors, casual workers, domestic employees in private homes, farm workers, maritime workers, railroad employees, and unpaid volunteers. These types of workers have other mean to recover for workplace injuries. In addition, approximately one-third of the states do not require employers with only a few employees-usually 3-5-to hold worker's compensation coverage. In these cases, employees would have to sue their employers for negligence if they did not offer to compensate the employee.

You can opt out of the worker's compensation, but only prior to experiencing an injury. If you do so, you will have to file a lawsuit against your employer which will be more time consuming and difficult, but will allow a greater recovery than worker's compensation benefits. Even if you are within the worker's compensation system, a few states will allow a lawsuit if the injury is a result of the employer concealing dangerous working conditions or deliberately violating legally established safety guidelines.

Worker's compensation covers injuries that occur outside the premises of the employer if the employee was engaged in work-related activities. Keep in mind that if you were under the influence of drugs or alcohol while injured you will have a difficult time recovering worker's compensation benefits or prevailing in a lawsuit. Finally, it is unlawful for an employer to fire or threaten to fire an employee for bringing a worker's compensation claim.

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