Getting injured at work can have potentially wide-ranging consequences for your long-term health and finances. Luckily, the US federal government mandates that all states require business owners to pay for workers’ compensation insurance in order to ensure that all employees are taken care of should they suffer a personal injury on the job.
Unfortunately, workers’ compensation programs vary from state to state and not all types of workers are necessarily covered, which means that filing a claim and receiving workers’ compensation benefits can be a confusing and often frustrating process. Therefore, we’ve put together a guide to help you better understand your rights and what you should do if you suffer a personal injury at work.
The Basics of Workers’ Compensation Insurance
The U.S. Department of Labor dictates that all states must offer workers’ compensation insurance. Under these state-mandated programs, all employers are required to pay the state for workers’ compensation insurance. Similarly, the US federal government is also required to provide workers’ compensation for all federal employees. Still, the fact that each workers’ compensation program is different means it is important to stay up to date with your local state regulations.
What Types of Personal Injury Are Not Covered by Workers’ Comp?
When an employee suffers a personal injury while on the job, the workers’ comp program should ensure that the employee receives financial benefits—no matter whether the employer or employee was at fault for the injury. In general, a workers’ comp claim can be filed for a wide variety of injuries and situations that arise from carelessness of the employer or employee.
However, not all states will cover all types of injuries or situations, which means that there is no guarantee that you will receive compensation. For instance, you can be denied workers’ comp if the state determines that your injury was self inflicted. As well, most states require a full drug and alcohol screening to be performed in all workers’ compensation cases, and your claim will be denied automatically if the test shows that you were under the influence when the injury occurred.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?
Filing a workers’ comp claim entitles you to various financial benefits related to the costs of your personal injury. In most cases, the actual benefits are quite small. However, they should still cover the costs of any necessary medical care and also the income you lost due to the injury. In most cases, workers’ comp will cover up to two-thirds of your total lost wages. However, this is not always the case depending on how much you made, as all states have a maximum benefit amount.
Should your injury be severe enough to force you to change careers, you can also receive compensation for any retraining work. As well, you will also receive additional compensation for any permanent injuries, while your family will receive workers’ comp death benefits should you be killed on the job. While the benefits may seem somewhat small compared to what you’ve gone through with the injury, the good news is that all workers’ compensation benefits are exempt from taxes.
Should I File a Workers’ Comp Claim?
As workers’ comp is technically insurance, most states stipulate that anyone receiving workers’ compensation benefits cannot sue their employer for their injury. However, this doesn’t mean that you can’t sue your employer if their reckless or negligent behavior directly leads to your injury, but by doing so, you automatically give up your right to workers’ compensation—no matter whether you win or lose the case.
Still, in cases of severe injury, it might still be well worth it to waive this right and take your employer to court. Depending on the outcome, you could be awarded with compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, lost wages, punitive damages and more, which could end up totaling far more than you could ever hope to get through workers’ compensation.
The causes of workplace injury are almost limitless, which is why it’s important that all employers and employees take workplace safety seriously. Nonetheless, should you be unfortunate enough to suffer a potentially serious personal injury while at work, at least you can remain safe in the knowledge that you’ll won’t be left on your own thanks to workers’ comp.
Christopher is an avid blogger from Tulsa, Oklahoma who is passionate about encouraging safety for all communities while working with the Gorospe & Smith Tulsa Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm in the Tulsa community to educate and promote safety and accident prevention.