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From construction work to nursing, many jobs across the country have a high risk of injury for employees. Workers' compensation laws are designed to protect employees from financial losses caused when they are injured or contract illnesses on the job. While workers' compensation rules and procedures vary from state to state, nearly every state has some version of the same basic laws that govern workers' compensation claims.
Employers in many states are required to provide workers' compensation coverage to employees, but some states exempt employers that have less than a specified number of employees. The employer pays for this insurance directly and is normally prohibited from requiring the employee to pay for the cost of coverage. Like most other types of insurance, benefits are paid out when a valid claim is filed and the criteria under state law are met.
Most state laws are intended to streamline the process for filing workers' compensation claims. However, these claims must pass certain tests that vary depending upon the jurisdiction and type of work. Some of the more common tests for whether a claim is valid include:
The employer's duty to provide workers' compensation coverage to employees also extends to providing them with proper safety training, equipment and information. The employee's duty to follow and use this training is sometimes considered a key element in whether a claim is accepted or denied.
Workers' compensation benefits normally cover medical costs and a percentage of lost wages arising from the injury or illness, in most cases on a tax-free basis. Benefits may be limited to a specific amount of time, or they may be enhanced if the employee requires more comprehensive services such as occupational rehabilitation or training for another. Coverage, claim requirements and filing windows vary by state.
Among other things, workers' compensation typically does not cover:
Certain classes of workers may not be covered under workers' compensation law in a given state, including:
If workers' compensation is accepted, benefits do not cover pain and suffering. During litigation, however, there is the possibility of awards for punitive and other damages.
Most states allow for an injured worker to file a lawsuit against an employer, but the worker generally cannot claim workers' compensation benefits if legal action is taken. In some cases, a workers' compensation lawyer can help the worker in receiving benefits that were improperly denied.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified workers' compensation lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local workers' compensation attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.