The term "workers' compensation" refers to a system of laws outlining specific benefits to which injured employees are entitled, and the procedures for obtaining such benefits.
The term “workers’ compensation” refers to a system of laws outlining specific benefits to which injured employees are entitled, and the procedures for obtaining such benefits. Every state has its own workers’ compensation laws, which are contained in statutes, and vary somewhat from state to state. In addition, there are special, federal workers’ compensation laws for employees of the federal government and other, specific types of industries.
Under the law in most states, every business must have some form of workers’ compensation insurance to cover injured employees. Filing a workers’ compensation claim is similar to filing an insurance claim; it isn’t a lawsuit against an employer, but rather a request for benefits. If you have been injured at work, attorneys experienced in workers’ compensation law can explain the complexities of workers’ compensation and help you secure the maximum benefits to which you are entitled.
Workers’ compensation laws are designed to ensure that employees who are injured on the job receive fixed monetary awards, without having to litigate their claims against their employers. In this way, workers’ compensation is an important safety net for employees when they are injured on the job or as a result of their job.
Most workers’ compensation laws also provide employers and co-workers with a certain level of protection, by limiting the amount employees can recover from their employers, and prohibiting, in most cases, injured employees from suing their co-workers. In essence, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, where an injured worker’s own negligence, or the negligence of his or her employer or co-workers, is not put at issue; rather, the injured employee is simply covered for his or her work-related injuries.
Thus, workers’ compensation is an injured worker’s “exclusive remedy” with respect to a work-related injury, unless he or she can point to a third party who contributed to his or her injuries. For example, because workers are often injured by products or machinery they use at work, they may, and often do, seek compensation from the manufacturers of such products. Employers are generally not directly involved in the third-party claims of their employees, and such claims take place in civil actions, rather than in the workers’ compensation system. In most cases, however, an employer can recoup its workers’ compensation payments and obligations from the recovery an injured worker obtains from a lawsuit against a third-party. In some states, the workers’ compensation insurer and employer may enter into the lawsuit commenced by the employee and seek to protect their rights to recover the sums. In other states, the employer is given a lien against the employee’s recovery. In those states, the employer and insurer must wait until the employee has made a recovery, at which point they assert the lien and the employee must then pay back monies which duplicate workers’ compensation benefits previously received or receivable.
Workers’ compensation coverage varies by state, and by occupation. For example, some states exempt certain categories of workers, such as agricultural employees, domestic employees and independent contractors, from their workers’ compensation systems. Other states require coverage only if an employer employs a minimum number of employees. To determine whether you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, you should contact an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in your area.
Also, keep in mind that if you are not covered by workers’ compensation, you may be able to bring a civil claim against your employer or a third party.