Workers' Compensation Law
What is Workers’ Compensation Law?
Workers’ compensation law is a system of rules in every state designed to pay the expenses of employees who are harmed while performing job-related duties. Employees can recover lost wages, medical expenses, disability payments, and costs associated with rehabilitation and retraining. The system is administered by the state, and financed by mandatory employer contributions. Federal government employees have access to a similar program.
States have enacted workers compensation laws to replace traditional personal injury litigation, in an attempt to remove risk for both the employee and the employer. Outside of a workers’ compensation system, employees who become injured or sick as a result of their employment must file a lawsuit and prove their employer is responsible. This can result in delays, and there is a possibility the employee will lose the court case and recover nothing.
From the employer’s perspective, workers’ compensation eliminates the possibility of litigation that could lead to a large damage award. Even if the employer acts negligently and an employee is hurt or killed, the employer will only be responsible for its ordinary contributions into the system (although its rates may increase following such an incident). In essence, workers’ compensation is an insurance program, made compulsory by the government.
In exchange for the certainty it provides, the workers’ compensation system carries a price for workers and employers. Workers are barred from suing their employer or coworkers for negligence, and they stand to recover much less compensation than they might in a lawsuit. For employers, the primary drawback is the premiums charged by the state. This added payroll expense must be paid regardless of whether a workplace accident ever occurs.
Every state provides certain exceptions, allowing workers to bypass the workers’ compensation statutes and file a lawsuit for damages. These include situations in which the employer or a coworker has intentionally caused harm to the worker. Exceptions may also exist for workers injured by defective products, or exposed to toxic substances. Furthermore, workers are free to file suit against third parties, such as drivers, landowners, and subcontractors.
Procedure in Contested Cases
Upon filing a workers’ compensation claim, employees can be surprised to learn the company they work for is disputing the validity of the claim. Employers have an incentive to dispute claims they feel are improper, as the rates they pay into the system will be affected, to some degree, by the number of claims paid on their behalf. Once disputed, the state workers’ compensation board will investigate the claim and render a decision.
During this process, the employee will be seen by a physician who performs evaluations on behalf of the state. While this physician is supposed to maintain an impartial role, employees should realize that doctor-patient confidentiality does not exist. Any statements made during the evaluation may be used by the employer to argue that the incident was not work related, or that the injury is less severe than the employee claims it to be.
If the board rules that the claim is not covered, an appeal process is available. The matter will first be heard by officials within the workers’ compensation department. In most states, this means a hearing will be conducted by an administrative law judge, and if further appeal is taken, the case will be presented to a review panel. Once these administrative remedies are exhausted, the employee can appeal the case in state court.
Despite the fact that workers’ compensation premiums account for less than 2% of the average employer’s cost of doing business, these cases can become highly contentious when employers feel workers are seeking benefits they do not deserve. The situation can easily deteriorate, rightly or wrongly, into a “matter of principle” for the employer. Injured workers facing such an obstacle may feel overmatched and vulnerable.
The best way for an employee to protect his or her rights under the workers’ compensation system is to retain legal counsel. An attorney specializing in this area of the law will be accustomed to dealing with emotionally-charged proceedings and employers who may not have their worker’s best interest in mind. Moreover, an attorney will know how to present the case in a way that maximizes the amount of money and other benefits the employee receives.
Know your Rights!
Articles About Workers' Compensation Law
- Workers' Compensation DependentsNot everybody is entitled to survivor benefit. Individuals who might be thought about dependents for the purposes of workers' compensation death benefits are specified in Labor Code. It enumerates two classifications of people who might certify as dependents: (1) those who are good-faith members of the departed staff member's family or family, and (2) those with specified marital, blood or embraced relationships with the decedent.
- Study Shows Construction Workers Exposed to Silica Are at Risk of DiseaseConstruction workers are exposed to a number of occupational hazards, such as scaffolding injuries, noise hazards, and equipment injuries. But a new report shows that construction workers who are exposed to crystalline silica dust are also at risk of developing occupational diseases over the long term.
- Injured While Commuting? What You Need to KnowMillions of people in and around Chicago commute to work each day. Most commuters use public transportation or drive in their own car to get to their jobs, but some Chicago area workers also bike to work or carpool. When commuters are injured on their way to work, complex issues can arise regarding liability.
- Proposed Legislation Seeks to Cut Benefits for Traveling EmployeesCommuting and traveling is often a necessary part of a person’s job. While work-related travel and lengthy commutes are commonplace in today’s labor force, when a worker is injured while commuting or traveling for work, several issues can arise regarding workers’ compensation.
- The Dangers of Working the Night Shift: How to Recover the Workers’ Compensation Benefits You DeserveNight shift work – though a necessity for many American workers – comes with a unique set of health risks and hazards. For instance, according to an article on WebMD, night shift work is related to a number of serious health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and obesity.
- Survivor Death BenefitsThe death of an injured worker does not influence the liability of the employer for payment of benefits. If an employee dies as a result of an industrial injury, a company’s liability for momentary or irreversible disability terminates, but the employer remains liable for various other benefits.
- Workers' Compensation Claim Denial: Hardship Hearing Versus Final HearingIn a perfect world, all workman’s compensation claims would be honored without scrutiny. Employees would be honest about the cause and extent of their injuries, and employers would willingly pay for all of the medical care necessary for their injured worker to recover. Despite its being a no-fault insurance, many claims are denied by employers and/or their insurance carriers.
- Who Qualifies as a Dependent for Workers' Compensation Death Benefits?Determining who qualifies as a dependent for workers' compensation death benefits can be a complicated issue.
- When Do I Need to Retain an Attorney for a Workers' Compensation Claim in Salt Lake City?The Utah Workers Compensation system makes claim filing easy for injured workers, who can leave the paperwork to other parties after notifying their employers of an injury.
- When Is a Restaurant Liable for Injuries or Illnesses?Every day restaurant customers and employees are injured in restaurant accidents. Injuries happen in restaurants for a number of reasons, including hazards such as food or drink spills, poor lighting, lack of or broken railings on stairways, failure to maintain the premises, burns by hot food or drink, food poisoning, sharp kitchen tools and utensils.
- All Employment and Labor Law Related Articles
Workers' Compensation Boards by State
Workers' Compensation Law - US
- ABA - Workers' Compensation and Employers Liability Law Committee
Committee members include plaintiff’s attorneys, defense and insurance lawyers, public officials, and judges. The group publishes a newsletter and hosts training events for workers’ compensation professionals.
- Black Lung Benefits Act
This law provides benefits to coal miners suffering from black lung disease. Family members of deceased miners may also qualify.
- Division of Coal Mine Workers' Compensation
This federal program handles claims for benefits under the Black Lung Benefits Act. Miners and their families currently involved in the claims process should check back regularly for announcements.
- Division of Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation
Information for nuclear weapons workers who suffered radiation exposure while employed by the Department of Energy. Lump-sum payments and reimbursement for medical expenses may be available.
- Division of Federal Employees' Compensation
Millions of government employees are covered by federal workers’ compensation insurance. An electronic filing portal allows workers to file a claim through the website.
- Division of Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation
Forms and claim procedures for injured waterfront workers, overseas government and military contractors, offshore oil rig employees, and others covered by the federal longshore programs.
- Federal Employees’ Compensation Act
Indexed version of the act, published by the Division of Federal Employee’s Compensation. This law provides compensation and rehabilitation assistance to non-military employees of the federal government.
- Occupational Safety and Health Organization
Since its creation in 1970, OSHA has made workplaces safer through enforcement of federal regulations, education and training, and industry outreach programs.
- Office of Workers' Compensation Programs - USDOL
News and information about the agency in charge of workers’ compensation programs for civilian employees of the federal government, department of energy workers, longshoremen, and coal miners.
- Safety, Health and Return-to-Employment (SHARE) Initiative
The SHARE Initiative was developed to promote occupational safety for federal employees. A performance chart shows the program’s impact on the largest government agencies.
- Workers' Compensation - Insurance Information Institute
Up-to-date information about workers’ compensation in all 50 states and the federal system. State-specific data is presented in chart format, making it easy to compare each state’s system.
- Workers' Compensation - Overview
A brief summary of workers’ compensation laws in the United States, with emphasis on major pieces of federal legislation. Published by the Legal Information Institute at Cornell University.
- Workers' Compensation and the Americans with Disabilities Act of 1990
Enforcement guidance published by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC). Discusses the relationship between the ADA and state workers’ compensation programs.
- Workers' Compensation Research Institute
Analysis of workers’ compensation laws and administrative actions. The information compiled by this non-profit organization is used by lawmakers looking for objective insight into their state’s system.
- Workers' Compensation Resources - AFL-CIO
Pro-worker advocacy resources, including tools for navigating the workers’ compensation programs in every state. An extensive resource library contains articles, fact sheets, videos, and more.