Workplace Injuries and Workers Compensation
Employees are prone to injury while carrying out work tasks, especially when the work involves hazardous situations. Workers’ compensation in America is designed for providing care and benefits to workers injured on the job. When workers’ compensation laws were introduced, they only covered workplace injuries. However, since then, those laws have been expanded to include illnesses that result from workplace conditions.
Workers’ compensation offers benefits like compensation for lost wages, permanent disability, and medical treatment. In many states, workers’ compensation also provides other kinds of benefits to workers who get injured as a result of an accident on the job. These usually include return-to-work and vocational training programs. Depending on the laws of the state, dependents of workers who lose their life on the job due to injury or illness resulting from work conditions are owed monetary compensation.
Workers’ compensation guarantees benefits and insurance for workers with a valid claim and in exchange, workers lose the right to sue their employer in court on account of negligence. A worker who gets injured can only take the case to court if the employer intentionally injured them. This is why punitive damages and damages relating to pain and suffering aren’t available with worker’s compensation.
Workers’ Compensation Insurance
Many states have made it obligatory for employers to hold workers’ compensation insurance for their employees. However, in Oklahoma and Texas, employers aren’t required to have workers’ compensation. In the state of Oklahoma, employers are required to set up a benefit plan which could provide workers benefits similar to a worker’s comp. In the state of Texas, employers aren’t required to have worker’s comp, but the law allows workers to sue them in court.
Workers’ Compensation Doesn’t Cover All Workers
In the majority of states, domestic workers, independent contractors, and volunteers aren’t covered by workers’ compensation. Volunteers and independent contractors aren’t considered employees which is why they aren’t covered. The state law frequently excludes domestic workers from workers’ comp. which is why they can’t benefit from the program.
Benefits of Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation insurance provides temporary benefits to workers while they are off work, compensation for permanent disability and payment for treatment.
With a workers’ compensation, an injured worker can receive the required medical treatment for their illness or injury without paying anything out of their pocket. The payment for the treatment will be made by their employer or the insurance company of their employer.
Doctor visits, prescription medicines, surgery, physical therapy and any other treatment required for recovering from the workplace illness or injury comes under medical treatment. Medical benefits may not cover alternative treatments like a chiropractic treatment.
Benefits for Permanent Disability
Compensation will be provided when a worker suffers a permanent disability because of their work-related illness or injury. Most states further classify permanent disability into 2 categories; permanent total disability and permanent partial disability.
Permanent total disability benefits are available to those workers who can never get back to work because of their workplace-related illness or injury. However, in many states, worker’s ability to continue to work isn’t considered if they have become blind, paralyzed or lost both their hands. These workers are automatically considered totally and permanently disabled. All such workers are provided a specific amount based on their wages.
Permanent partial disability refers to a permanent impairment resulting from a work-related illness or injury that affects one or more parts of the body but doesn’t prohibit the worker from getting back to some sort of employment. The degree of severity of the impairment will be assessed by a doctor who’ll give the worker an impairment rating. The insurer will use that rating to determine how much money should be awarded to the worker.
If a worker isn’t capable of working for a specific period due to their illness or injury, they’ll likely be compensated for their lost wages. Lost wage or temporary disability compensation is based on a specific percentage of the worker’s wage at the time the worker was injured.
Vocational Benefits Under Workers’ Compensation
If the worker is still incapable of returning to their prior job because of physical restrictions, despite obtaining all available medical treatments, they may be offered vocational retraining. Many states pay for this vocational retraining so that injured workers can return to work.
Your Right To A Safe Work Environment
Employers in the United States are required by the law to provide a healthy and safe work environment to their employees. However, sometimes employers, due to their negligence, fail to provide a safe working environment. It is commonly believed that employees get injured due to unsafe or unhealthy working environment. However, in reality, employees still suffer an injury even when the employers take all the necessary actions to make the work environment safe.
Workplace injuries may include broken bones, occupational illness, aggravations of a pre-existing medical condition and psychological injuries. There is some kind of system available in every state to help employees receive a compensation for workplace injuries.
Your Rights as an Employee
Employees who get injured on the job have legal rights and they need to protect them. In order to protect their legal rights, they should report their injury to the employer. There is a certain time period for reporting the injury to the employer. Failure to report the injury within that time period could mean that the employee will lose their right to any kind of compensation. Sometimes, employees can get critically injured and reporting the injury becomes impossible. In that case, family members of the employee can alert the employer about the injury.
The injured employer should then file a worker’s compensation claim. Once they have filed the claim, certain protections are automatically put into place.
Workers’ compensation laws are different in different states. Moreover, the rights an employee who suffers a workplace injury has also vary, so do the legal procedures used for ensuring those rights. However, there are several legal rights of an injured worker that are same across the majority of states. These include:
The Right of Filing a Claim
A worker who sustains a workplace injury has the right of filing a worker’s compensation claim for their injury.
The Right of Pursuing Medical Treatment
A worker who sustains a workplace injury has the right of pursuing medical treatment until they recover.
The Right of Returning to Work
If the physician declares that the injured worker is fit to work, then have the right to resume their prior job.
The Right to Disability Compensation
If an injured worker cannot continue work due to their injury or illness – whether temporarily or permanently – then, they have the right to receive some disability compensation.
The Right of Appealing the Decision
If an injured employee disagrees with the decision of their employer or their employer’s insurance company, they can appeal that decision.
The Right of Hiring a Lawyer
An injured employee has the right to hire a lawyer to represent them throughout the whole process.
Many employees who sustain a work-related illness or injury think that they can’t refuse the employer’s offer. That’s not the case. As an employee, they have the right to refuse offers or requests made by the employer. For example, an employer may ask their injured employee to use their own health insurance for their medical treatment. An employee should say no in this case as the workers’ compensation insurance should pay for their medical treatment.
Sometimes employers offer some incentives to persuade an employee against filing a workers’ compensation claim. This is not legal and if an employer does this, an injured worker should file a case against them at the court with the help of an attorney. In each state, where employers are required to have workers’ compensation, the laws allow employees to seek workers’ compensation benefits without any fear, harassment or reprisal from their employer. If the employer of an injured worker makes it harder for them to exercise their rights, they could face severe penalties.
An Injured Worker’s Rights Against Other Parties
Sometimes a worker on the job may get injured not because of their employer’s negligence, but due to a third party’s negligence. The other person or party could be a commercial truck driver or manufacturer of faulty equipment, etc. If a worker is injured due to another party’s negligence, they can file a claim against the entity or person. These are called third-party claims. Typically, they are different from workers’ compensation claims and can be filed as civil lawsuits in state courts or federal courts.
In civil lawsuits, employees who suffer workplace injuries can seek additional damages that aren’t recoverable under workers’ compensation. For example, under workers’ compensation, an injured worker typically receives compensation for lost wages and medical treatment. They can’t seek compensation for their pain and suffering. In civil lawsuits, like personal injury lawsuits, workers can seek compensation for pain and suffering.
Keeping Track of All the Expenses
Employees who sustain workplace injuries are typically provided compensation for lost wages and medical expenses. Therefore, it is important for them to keep a detailed record of all their medical expenses and the time they missed from work due to their injury. This includes medical reports from doctors, lab tests, and prescriptions. Medical records will help an injured worker build a strong case and ensure that they receive the compensation they are entitled to.
An employee should know that if they sustain a workplace injury in the state where employers are required to have workers’ compensation, they can’t sue the employer for negligence. Workers’ compensation laws protect employers from lawsuits. Thus, injured workers can only receive workers’ compensation benefits.
If you ever sustain a workplace injury, notify your employer and seek workers’ compensation. If your employer makes it difficult for you to seek workers’ compensation, hire an experienced attorney to file a lawsuit against them. If you need assistance of an experienced attorney to help you receive compensation for your work-related injury or illness, contact us.
How to File a Claim
If you’re injured while carrying out the work assigned by your employer, or believe you caught a disease on the job, report everything to your employer without wasting any time. If you wait, you could lose the right of filing a workers’ comp claim and you won’t receive any benefits offered by workers’ compensation. The time frame for filing a worker’s compensation varies depending on the state.
What to Do in Case of Retaliation
Although rare, there are some instances where employers retaliate to report their employees’ illness or injury. Employers are required by the law to report the illness or injury of their employee. It is not legal for an employer to reject an employee’s claim for a workers’ compensation or discriminate against them. An employee can take legal action against an employer who denies their right to a worker’s compensation.
Hire an Attorney
Many people find it hard to understand the complex laws surrounding workers’ compensation. An employer may attempt to stop you from receiving benefits under workers’ compensation. If you suffer from a work-related illness or injury and the employer doesn’t allow you to receive benefits under workers’ compensation, you should hire an attorney. A professional attorney experienced in workers’ comp claims can help you receive the workers’ comp benefits you are entitled to.
If you need the assistance of an experienced attorney for workers’ compensation, give us a buzz or drop an email.