There was a time when employees who were injured at work, or contracted a health problem through their working conditions, were on their own to gain compensation. Those who could afford it would engage an attorney to sue their employer, those who couldn’t depended on their own resources. Thankfully today employees are much better protected, but as large sums of money are involved, it is not surprising that things can get complicated.
Who Is Responsible for Paying Compensation?
Workers Compensation Law is determined by each state, and every state has its own system. In most states, every business is required by law to provide compensation insurance for its workers. Claims for compensation are presented to the employer’s insurance company, and compensation is paid according to standard criteria.
Do I Have to Prove Whose Fault My Injury Was?
In most states workers’ compensation is paid on a no fault basis—if the injury was contracted at the workplace or in the course of working activities, then the compensation will be paid.
In some states there is provision for the insurance company not to pay, if it can be shown that the injury was entirely your fault. For instance you may not be entitled to compensation if you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, or if you deliberately flouted company safety procedures.
How Do I Get My Compensation?
In most states the procedure is similar.
- Notify your employer immediately of your injury, and record the details of your notification.
- Your employer must immediately offer you a claim form. Fill it in carefully and answer every question in detail. Keep a copy of your completed form.
- Present your completed claim form to your employer. He will have a legally defined timeframe in which he must submit it to his insurers. They will have a legally defined timeframe in which to respond.
Do I Need an Attorney?
In the majority of cases, the workers compensation procedures are straightforward, and injured employees receive their compensation automatically after following the correct process.
However, there are cases when you will want to consider getting professional assistance with your claim, for instance:
- If your injuries are serious and/or complex, making it difficult for you to know whether your compensation is likely to be a realistic solution to your health issues.
- If your claim is rejected by the insurers, or you are offered what you believe to be an inadequate compensation.
- If your claim is complicated—for instance if your injury was caused by faulty machinery which is partly the responsibility of the manufacturer.
- If you feel you might get better compensation by suing your employer for negligence.
Many specialist injury attorneys, like Larson Law in Springfield, MO, do not require any payment up front, and will discuss your particular circumstances in detail before advising you whether they will take your case on. In most cases they will be awarded their fee by the courts when the claim is successful, and will make no charge if it fails.
What If I Was Not at the Workplace When Injured?
Provided you are engaged in work for your employer when the injury occurs, you would expect to be covered. So if you are traveling as part of your work as a sales person, for instance, then you should receive compensation. If you normally work at a particular workplace, but are sent out for any reason and suffer an injury, that should also be covered. Even if you are attending a social event organized by your employer for the employees, you would normally be covered for an injury.
If you are working in a state other than that of your usual place of employment when you are injured, in some circumstances you may be able to exercise a choice of claiming either under the terms of the state where you normally work or of the state where the injury occurred.
When Bad Things Happen
Sadly, accidents at work are not unusual. Most are fairly trivial and easily resolved to everyone’s satisfaction. Others can be life-changing and affect the injured employee and dependants for years to come. If this happens it is important to know exactly what rights are given to you by your state’s Workers Compensation legislation.
The state’s Department of Labor will have a web page which will explain the procedure that applies. If you are in doubt about whether you will receive the compensation you feel you should, then make use of the consultation services of an injuries attorney.
Lilly Dean has a background in workplace safety and the claims department providing an all-round knowledge of staying safe, and what to do when accidents do occur at work. She shares her industry knowledge online through her articles.