Workers Compensation - An Overview

A worker who is injured on the job, or who is suffering the effects of an illness as a result of occupational exposure, is entitled to file a claim for workers' compensation, and his or her employer will therefore be required to pay for the injured or ill employee's medical care, lost wages, and even vocational rehabilitation, in the event that the worker is so incapacitated or. Workers' compensation insurance is a type of insurance that provides restitution for medical care, and compensation for lost wages, for employees who become injured while in the place of employment or while performing the duties of their job, even if it is off the premises. In exchange for the guarantee of income and medical treatment in the event of injury or illness, the employee forfeits their right to sue the employer under the umbrella of negligence.

Workers' compensation insurance is mandated by law in most states, and is intended to to benefit both the workers and the employers. The workers are benefited because they know they will have an income if they are injured in the workplace or while performing the job, and they will usually not have to wait long for benefit payments to begin. If the injury or illness results in such disability that the employee will no longer be able to perform the same job as previously, the workers' compensation system will provide for vocational rehabilitation, as well.

Workers' compensation law also benefits the employer, because it generally prohibits the employee from having a legal right to bring a lawsuit against the employer for negligence. In this way, the employer is protected from costly, lengthy and sometimes vindictive litigation. This also benefits the overburdened court system by easing the caseload of injury-related claims.

An employer's responsibility and the employee's obligations in the process vary under individual state laws, so it is necessary for an injured worker to investigate how workers' compensation laws are applied in the state where he or she is employed, or to retain the services of a workers' compensation attorney.

An employer required to provide workers' compensation for employees may participate in a state-provided insurance fund or, if eligible, may elect to operate under its own self-insurance fund. Under either method, the benefits must meet or exceed the state's minimum requirements. In general, those requirements provide for 100% of the cost for hospitals, doctors, medical treatment, medication, medical supplies, and transportation required for care. While an injured employee is unable to work, an employer may be responsible to pay a non-taxable benefit from one-half to two-thirds of the employee's normal wage. Finally, if an employee requires training, therapy, or other accommodations in order to return to work, the employer may also be responsible to pay for any necessary rehabilitation expenses.

Eventually, a compensable injury will be classified as temporary or permanent, and partial or total. This classification impacts the type or duration of certain benefits under the claim. Depending on the extent or nature of the injury, the payments may be short-term or long-term, and may be extended in one or more lump sum payments.

An injured employee has an obligation to inform his or her employer about an on-the-job injury within a specified amount of time. Most states require that the rules about injury reporting be posted in a prominently visible place. The employer then has the right to select and send the employee to a physician or medical care facility. Some very large employers provide a "company doctor" for on-site care and evaluation for employees who sustain on-the-job injuries. Typically, personal health care providers will refuse to treat or offer a diagnosis for a work-related injury and personal health insurance coverage is not required to pay for care for work-related injuries.

If an employer fails to meet legal obligations, the employee has the right to obtain legal advice and representation, and/or to pursue compensation through the courts.

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