Workers' Compensation

Traditional Workers' Comp Laws Are Changing

Man injured on job with manager and first aid responders
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Workers' compensation laws ensure that an employee who is injured as a result of an accident on the job or who contracts a disease as a result of performing his or her job, will receive compensation and medical benefits.

Every state requires that employers purchase workers' compensation insurance to ensure that employees, who are affected by illness or injury, and their dependents, are protected against significant hardships in case of injury, illness, or death.

In addition to paying medical expenses, workers' compensation has traditionally also supplied disability payments to the injured employee while he was unable to work. This most frequently covered up to two-thirds of a worker's normal compensation.

Workers' compensation is provided regardless of who was at fault in an injury. Even if the injury occurred as a result of the worker's own actions, he or she is covered. 

Workers' compensation was created to protect both the employer and the employee from the costs and hardships of employee injury and illness. The employee receives compensation and medical benefits. In turn, the employee signs off on the right to sue the employer.

The employer benefits from immunity from law suits, for the most part. This *compact* has been  the basis for the provision of workers' compensation since the dawn of the Industrial Age, according to Michael Grabell, of ProPublica, and Howard Berkes, of NPR in The Demolition of Workers' Comp.

 

Current State of the Workers' Compensation System

These authors studied the current situation with workers compensation and found that it is difficult for employees to collect money to cover the treatments recommended by their doctors. The amount of money received, in many cases, does not cover any living expenses in addition to the medical expenses.

The original intent of  workers' comp was to cover both. Grabell and Berkes state:

"Over the past decade, state after state has been dismantling America’s workers’ comp system with disastrous consequences for many of the hundreds of thousands of people who suffer serious injuries at work each year, a ProPublica and NPR investigation has found.

"The cutbacks have been so drastic in some places that they virtually guarantee injured workers will plummet into poverty."

Since 2003, legislators in 33 states have passed legislation that reduces the amount of money that an injured worker can collect. Additionally, available benefits vary from state to state. The authors of the study use this example,"The maximum compensation for the loss of an eye is $27,280 in Alabama, but $261,525 in Pennsylvania." 

The Responsible Employer

As an employer, make certain that your employees and management staff know that accident reports must be filled out when an employee is injured or claims a job related illness. Make available the claims filing forms from your chosen workers' compensation company.

Work closely with your workers' compensation agent to ensure that both the employee's medical needs and your liability are covered.

Work closely with your employees to make sure the claim is easy, timely, and correctly filed. Follow your insurance company guidelines.

Employers need to watch for fraudulent claims, too. In one recent workers' comp claim, the employee begged the Human Resources staff to not file a claim for her on-the job injury. HR did anyway because that is the expected relationship with their worker compensation company.

They learned that the employee had filed claims at her last five employers, none of whom were listed on the person's resume or application. Though she had actually hurt herself on the current job, and the employer had the incident video taped, she knew the claim would bring her history to the attention of the employer. 

Workers' Compensation Company's Services

In addition to compensation for the employee, many workers' compensation companies offer the services of an occupational health and safety specialist who can audit your workplace and make recommendations about employee safety and ergonomics.

This process also educates employees about how to avoid injuries.

This service is helpful as is the training available from most companies about  how to make  accident reports and fill out workers' compensation claim forms. You can also contact your state workers' compensation office for help.

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Also Known As: worker's compensation, worker comp, workers comp

Disclaimer:

Susan Heathfield makes every effort to offer accurate, common-sense, ethical Human Resources management, employer, and workplace advice both on this website, and linked to from this website, but she is not an attorney, and the content on the site, while authoritative, is not guaranteed for accuracy and legality, and is not to be construed as legal advice.

The site has a world-wide audience and employment laws and regulations vary from state to state and country to country, so the site cannot be definitive on all of them for your workplace. When in doubt, always seek legal counsel or assistance from State, Federal, or International governmental resources, to make certain your legal interpretation and decisions are correct. The information on this site is for guidance, ideas, and assistance only.