In a perfect world, you would never need to worry about your bills if you’d been hurt at work. That’s what the workers compensation system was set up to do, by requiring that employers carry what amounts to insurance so that employees can be covered by a no-fault system for all types of workplace injuries and illnesses. But unfortunately, things don’t always work out that simply. Here are the top five things all employees should know about workers compensation law to protect themselves at work now and in the future:
- You Don’t Need to Be an Industrial Worker for Coverage
Many workers incorrectly assume that workers comp only covers industrial accidents. As long as you’re an employee (independent contractors aren’t covered), you’re covered for issues such as carpal tunnel from typing on your computer all day or asthma caused by mold growth in the office.
- You Don’t Need to Demonstrate Employer Negligence
Unlike many kinds of injury claims, workers compensation claims don’t require you to demonstrate fault or negligence. If you got the injury or illness in question while working, then you’re probably covered. There are some exceptions, such as intentionally hurting yourself at work, but they’re relatively few.
- You Won’t Get Rich off a Workers Comp Settlement
As much as some people talk about workers “milking the system,” workers compensation settlements are generally quite limited. They’ll help to cover medical costs and get you back to work, but that’s about it. It’s good to have information specific to your state on hand, both to scale your own expectations and to deflect criticism from ignorant people around you.
- You Need to Document Your Problem From the Start
If you have any sort of ongoing issue that you think could contribute to injury or illness for you or your coworkers, report it and then document any progress. This will strengthen your claim down the road.
- You Might Be Eligible for Personal Injury Compensation
When you file for workers comp, you generally give up your right to sue your employer. But you retain your right to file workers compensation lawsuits against third parties that may have contributed. The manufacturer of faulty equipment or a construction company that did shoddy work are two good examples. If you think something like that could be at play, it’s best to talk to a personal injury lawyer; many workers compensation lawyers focus on general personal injury as well.
What else should employees know about workers compensation lawsuits or claims? Join the discussion in the comments.