If you get hurt on the job, it is important that you understand your state's workers' compensation system. Workers' compensation (sometimes referred to as "workman's compensation") may be your only means of receiving compensation for a work-related injury, so read on to learn the details of how workers' comp functions.
If you suffer a work-related injury or illness, you are probably entitled to receive workers' compensation benefits. The types of injuries covered by workers' compensation include physical injuries, occupational illnesses, and some psychological and stress-related conditions. These injuries or illnesses can occur at any time, so long as they're work-related.
Workers' compensation is usually the only means of your recovery for work-related injuries and illnesses. This means that you cannot initiate a civil lawsuit against your employer. Instead, you must file a claim through your state's workers' compensation agency. Most employers are required to pay into the workers' compensation system by purchasing insurance through the state's workers' compensation fund.
Most states' systems will provide for the following workers' compensation benefits:
How much you'll receive in benefits depends on the nature and seriousness of your injuries.
The amount of benefits that you're entitled to receive might be limited by the laws of your state. Each state has its own rules for how an injury should be compensated. Some states have a list that affixes a dollar amount for each type of injury. Other states mandate that compensation is based on a scale or rating of injuries or disabilities.
Whatever the system, it's a good idea to speak to a workers' comp attorney to explore your legal options.
If you suffer a work-related injury or illness, immediately report it to your supervisor. If the injury or illness has gradually worsened over time (such as carpal tunnel syndrome), report it as soon as you think it was caused by your job. If you do not report your injury within a certain amount of time—usually within 30 days—you might lose your right to collect workers' comp benefits. Even if you report your injury before the time limit expires, the workers' comp insurer might wonder about your credibility if you delayed reporting the accident for no reason.
When you can return to work after your work-related injury or illness is a difficult question to answer and will depend upon the extent of your injury. Furthermore, a number of people will have input in deciding how soon you can return to work. This list includes your treating doctor, your employer, the claims administrator, and your attorney (if you have one).
If you haven't completely recovered from your injury, you might nevertheless be able to return to work with duty restrictions to prevent you from aggravating your injury. If you are entirely unable to return to work, you may be entitled to permanent disability benefits.