Do You Understand How Workers’ Comp Works?
As an employee, it’s important that you understand all of the different policies and protections that are in place to safeguard your health, well-being, and future income earning potential. Chief among them is workers’ compensation.
What is Workers’ Comp?
“Workers’ compensation is a state-mandated insurance program that provides benefits to employees who suffer job-related injuries and illnesses,” Nolo explains. “Each state has its own laws and programs for workers’ compensation. The federal government also has a separate workers’ comp program, mostly for federal employees.”
Typically, any employee with a work-related injury or illness can get workers’ compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault. Whether it was the employer, employee, a customer, coworker, or some other third-party individual (like a random driver who hits your company vehicle and leaves you injured). There are, of course, some limitations and exceptions in abnormal situations.
What You Need to Know About Workers’ Comp
Ideally, you’ll never need to use workers’ comp benefits. However, millions of American employees do on an annual basis. To look out for your best interests, make sure you educate yourself on the basics and how they apply to you. Here’s a brief look at some topics and issues that may be of particular interest.
- Your Employer Has to Carry Workers’ Comp Insurance
Many employees assume that their employer doesn’t carry workers’ compensation insurance, or that they don’t qualify because of a lack of time on the job. However, both of these beliefs are usually false.
In most states, companies with at least one full-time employee must carry workers’ comp insurance. (In some states, it’s three or more full-time employees.) And it doesn’t matter if you’ve been an employee for two weeks or two years, any employee on the payroll is offered protection.
- Here’s What Is and Isn’t Covered
Workers’ compensation covers a wide variety of illnesses and injuries that occur on the job (or as a result of the job). This includes things like slips and falls; injuries sustained in car accidents; back injuries from repetitive movement; carpal tunnel; and illnesses and diseases contracted from breathing in toxic substances.
The circumstances of the injury or illness matter. It’s possible for benefits to be denied if blood-alcohol tests reveal the employee was under the influence at the time of the injury. Self-inflicted injuries are also disqualified from receiving benefits.
- The Process Works Like This
If you find yourself hurt on the job, you’ll begin the process by seeking out immediate medical treatment. You’ll also be responsible for notifying your employer about the injury or illness in writing within a timely manner (usually 30 days). From there, you’ll need to file all necessary paperwork and may be required to be seen by an employer-approved doctor for a one-time evaluation.
Once it’s confirmed that you have a qualifying injury, your employer will more than likely offer a settlement to avoid going to court. This settlement is negotiable and will more than likely be offered in two forms: lump sum or structured payments. If you feel like your benefit is being devalued, you’re welcome to deny it and pursue a claims hearing.
- What You Can Expect to Collect
“The amount claimants can collect will depend on their annual salary,” Ricci Law explains. “Across the board, workers comp reimburses you for around two-thirds of your lost income. This percentage will also depend on how severe your injury is. For instance, if you lose a limb, you’ll be more likely to collect a large portion of your lost income, in contrast with a more minor injury.”
The check you receive each week can be used however you see fit. While most people use their workers’ comp benefits in the same way they would use their paycheck, there’s nothing stopping you from using it in another capacity. Use your benefit in any way you deem best, but make sure you’re smart with your payout. You also need to remember that you’re only getting 66.7 percent of your paycheck. It’s in your best interest to return to work as soon as possible.
Getting the Benefits You Deserve
If you find yourself in a situation where you’re hurt on the job or as a result of your normal work obligations and duties, you should be eligible for workers’ compensation. Don’t let a lack of education or awareness prevent you from pursuing a claim and getting the benefits you deserve. If necessary, hire a workers’ compensation lawyer to help you navigate the complexities of your situation.