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Can You Work While on Workers’ Compensation?

For workers who are injured on the job, the most common way to gain benefits and payment for your grievances is through workers’ compensation. This is a state-mandated program that provides insurance payments to employees who are either injured or disabled because of or at work. However, there are strict workers comp rules and regulations that must be followed in order for you to claim and receive these types of benefits.

What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?

In general, workers’ compensation is intended to cover workplace injuries that occur because of the carelessness of an employee or an employer. As a result of these broad parameters, the list of possible situations and injuries is quite extensive. However, there are some limits that are imposed by the state.

For example, most states say that employees who are making claims and who fail drug or alcohol tests can be denied workers’ compensation benefits. Such tests are often imposed by the state before granting compensation to determine whether the employee was under the influence at the time of the injury. The state may also deny benefits if the workplace injuries were self-inflicted or if they were caused because the employee was violating a company policy or a law.

Workers’ compensation is intended to help employees who are struggling to work because of an injury or a disability, so the payments are generally modest at approximately two-thirds of your average wage. However, these earnings are not taxed, providing an advantage for workers who need this form of income.

What Are the Benefits of Workers’ Compensation?

Although it can vary from state to state, employees are likely entitled to benefits that are used for:

  • Basic medical care needed because of the illness or injury
  • Replacement income while out of work
  • Costs for retraining after the injury
  • Compensation for lost income following a permanent injury
  • Benefits to the surviving family members in the event of a workplace death

Most people think of workers’ compensation benefits after they have experienced a sudden incident on the job that has caused injury, but these payments are also given for illnesses and injuries that are developed over a long period of time. For example, workers who develop carpal tunnel syndrome or respiratory issues from repetitive motions or from long exposure to certain chemicals can also apply for workers’ compensation benefits.

It is also important to remember that if a person claims workers’ compensation benefits following a workplace injury, he or she cannot then sue an employer for negligence. Likewise, these benefits are not intended to cover pain and suffering.

Who Is Covered Under Workers’ Compensation?

The majority of employees are covered under some form of workers’ compensation insurance. However, there are certain workers that some states may choose to exclude from benefits. Although the exact exemptions vary from state to state, most locations consider these employees ineligible:

  • Independent contractors
  • Volunteers
  • Business owners
  • Farmers and farmhands
  • Maritime employees
  • Employees of private residences
  • Casual workers
  • Railroad employees
  • Federal employees

In addition, some states maintain that workplaces with fewer than five employees do not have to offer workers’ compensation. Such exemptions are why checking specific states’ guidelines is important in these types of cases.

What if the Employee Returns to Work?

If a worker is injured and cannot return to his or her usual job, the general rule that most states follow is that an employer can offer either a modified or an alternative position so he or she can continue working at the current location. However, this change in position can come with reduced pay because it is not the same position.

When injured employees are ready to return to work, workers’ compensation may continue or it may cease. When an employee receives wages that are equal to or greater than the ones that were earned prior to the accident, workers’ compensation benefits are typically ended. However, an employee whose wages are less because of the ongoing injury may still be eligible for continuing compensation benefits.

Workers’ compensation is regulated by state laws, so the requirements and benefits vary by location. Most states provide two different types of wage loss benefits. Employees who have experienced an injury in the workplace and who are temporarily disabled but still able to work may be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits. Many states offer wage loss benefits that are available even when the injured employees return to the workplace. These are typically calculated based on the percentage difference between the employee’s earnings before and after the injury.

Speak to an Experienced Workers' Compensation Attorney Today

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.

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