No one expects to get injured on the job, but it happened to approximately 2.9 million workers in the private industry in 2016.
Even so, many workers are reluctant to file a worker’s compensation claim because they fear it will cost them their job or have other, negative repercussions. Here, we’ll cover 10 of the most frequently-asked questions about workers’ compensation laws.
If you’ve received an injury at work, it’s important you know your rights and the laws surrounding workers’ compensation.
10 Facts About Workers’ Compensation Laws
Here are 10 important things every employee should know about workers’ comp.
1. Get Documentation for Everything
Write out details about the injury in all forms and visit a doctor familiar with workers’ comp claims. He will also provide written documentation about the seriousness of your injury.
In addition, write down everything that occurred the day of the injury while it is still fresh in your mind, including information about any people who were working that day and eyewitnesses.
This documentation acts as the pillar for the entire claim; without it, a worker will be unable to prove his or injury occurred and seek compensation.
2. You Must Act Quickly
Do not delay in filing a claim. In most states, a worker will only have a maximum of 30 days from the date of the injury to notify the employer.
Next, the claim must be filed within your state’s statute of limitations. Time frames vary depending on location and the circumstances surrounding your particular case. If you do not file a claim within this period, you cannot receive compensation.
3. Laws Vary by State
It’s important you check the specific workers’ compensation laws associated with your state.
Many states will have different regulations concerning a myriad of details:
- The statute of limitations deadline
- If you are eligible for workers’ compensation (this depends on how the business is classified)
- If you can receive compensation for an injury that occurred beyond the business’s premises
- The amount of the benefits afforded
Always thoroughly read your state’s guidelines before taking action.
4. Not Everyone Can Receive It
As you may have guessed, not everyone is eligible for workers’ compensation.
If you work for a small business or are a contracted worker, chances are you may not be eligible for workers’ comp. This is because some state laws do not require businesses that are classified a certain way to insure certain workers.
However, even if you are a contracted worker, you may be an official employee under state guidelines. Always take the time to check.
Additionally, your injury or illness must be work-related and within the scope of employment.
5. Suing May Not Be Possible
Many employees who have filed for workers’ compensation contemplate suing. Due to an existing law known as the exclusive remedy rule, you may not be able to sue your company at all.
The exclusive remedy dictates that the benefits provided through workers’ compensation are the only “remedy” that can be provided to an employee in the event of an accident. Of course, there are exceptions to this rule.
Recently, the exclusive remedy provision has come under attack in lawsuits. Some states wish to strengthen current laws while others hope to make employers more liable if negligence leads to injuries or fatalities.
6. Drugs and Alcohol
After an injury, it is common for a company to require a drug and alcohol test. Businesses are within their legal rights to do so, but if any drugs or alcohol remnants are found, the employee may not recover damages.
To prove intoxication in most states, a blood or urine sample must be taken within eight hours of the injury. Related amounts determine if the employee was under the influence of any drugs or alcohol at the time of the injury.
It is important to note that even in the case of a positive test result, an employee can still prove he or she was not intoxicated at the time of the injury.
7. Understand Scope of Employment
It is also imperative that workers understand what is meant by the “scope of employment” or “course of employment.” Putting it simply, any action that deviates from an employees’ regular work duties and results in an injury cannot be used to file a claim.
Likewise, if an action for personal benefit (one that does not aid the company in any way) causes an injury, workers’ compensation cannot be provided.
For these reasons, accidents occurring while traveling to and from work are not covered by workers’ compensation programs.
8. Amounts Depend on Wage and Dependents
If you are provided with workers’ compensation, the amount will vary. In almost all cases, you will receive less money than you made as an employee.
Any damages can usually be categorized into three groups:
- Payments for medical bills
- Payments for missed work
- Any lump sum settlements
Generally, workers receive about two-thirds of their regular pay. If you make higher wages, you may receive considerably less because of workers’ compensation wage caps.
Benefits may also increase if you have dependents.
9. You Cannot Be Fired
After filing a claim, it is illegal for an employer to take any retaliatory actions against you. You cannot be fired, demoted or written up because of your claim.
If an employer takes any retaliatory actions against you, he or she will face dire consequences. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t get fired while on workers’ compensation. It simply means the reasons for any punitive or negative measures cannot be tied to your claim.
10. It Will Not Affect Future Jobs
Some employers do background checks that will show any litigations you may have been involved in. Therefore, if you’ve filed a workers’ compensation claim, they may see it.
In other states, potential employers are not allowed to ask about past claims until a job offer has been made. Again, the laws vary.
However, that doesn’t mean your chances of earning the job will be affected. Most employers understand accidents can occur on the job. Unless you have several claims, there is no reason for this to be a red flag.
Know Your Rights
Understanding workers’ compensation laws can save you a lot of time and worry in the event of an injury.
But what about once your claim has been accepted? How do you know if your business is providing you with a fair settlement? Read our article to find out!
Getting injured at work is a nightmare for employees and employers, but by being knowledgeable about worker rights and adhering to all safety regulations, everyone can be one step closer to an injury-free workspace.