If an employee sustains a work injury and wants to seek compensation, there are 10 important facts he or she should know about workers’ compensation. Keeping this information in mind can help workers prepare a workers’ comp claim and preserve their legal rights.
The following are the key points that workers should consider if they are injured on the job.
1. Workers’ Compensation Can Cover All Medical Costs
In cases involving non-fatal work-related injuries, workers’ compensation coverage typically accounts for all medical expenses pertaining to diagnosis and treatment of the related injury, along with a portion of wages lost, which are often referred to as disability benefits.
2. Employees Need to Report Accidents to Employers
Following immediate medical treatment, it’s important for victims to report the accident to the employer. In most cases, injured workers are required to report an accident within days to claim workers’ comp benefits. Workers may also need to visit health care providers that the employer’s insurer has approved to preserve eligibility for benefits.
3. Workers’ Comp Operates Under a “No-Fault” System
Workers’ compensation is a “no-fault” system regardless of the state where the work injury took place. In other words, the employer or the employer’s insurer must cover benefits independent of who is actually at fault for the accident and injuries. This means that even if an employee believes that he or she shared fault in a work-related accident, filing a workers’ comp claim and recovering compensation is still possible.
4. Some Workers May Be Ineligible to Receive Benefits
Although many employees are often entitled to benefits in the event of a work-related accident and injuries, some employees may not qualify. For example, some employers may be exempt from workers’ compensation according to state law. Independent contractors are also ineligible to recover workers’ comp. On the other hand, ineligible employees may still be able to recover compensation through personal injury claims or lawsuits.
5. Employees Can File Claims for Injuries That Aren’t Directly Work-Related
Some employees may be reluctant to file a claim if they were injured in the workplace while not performing a work-related task. However, as long as employees sustain injuries in the workplace, they are entitled to workers’ comp benefits with a few exceptions.
6. Insurance Companies Aren’t On the Employee’s Side
Injured workers may believe that their employer’s insurance company will help ensure they receive complete coverage for injuries. The truth is that insurance companies are never on the victims’ side, working instead to secure the lowest amount of compensation possible. As such, employees shouldn’t expect insurers to help them understand their legal rights or provide them with total compensation.
7. Disability Benefits Can Only Cover a Portion of Lost Wages
As briefly mentioned, disability benefits can cover partial wage loss. However, employees may expect more than they actually wind up getting, to the point where they discover that they aren’t receiving enough to cover regular expenses. To help maximize coverage, employees may be able to file a personal injury claim in addition to a workers’ comp claim.
8. Workers Can File for Both Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation
If a worker sustains a work-related injury, it may be possible to file both a workers’ comp claim and a personal injury claim. By filing both, injury victims may be able to recover the maximum amount of compensation when workers’ comp coverage may not be sufficient. Through both types of claims, it may be possible to recover coverage for medical expenses, lost wages, and other related damages such as pain and suffering.
9. It’s Best to File a Claim as Soon as Possible
It will be more challenging to recover full compensation if injury victims wait too long to file a workers’ comp claim. Over time, it may even be impossible to recover compensation entirely if the claimant fails to file in time. For example, in Illinois, the statute of limitations for filing workers’ comp claims is three years, after which time injury victims won’t be able to file.
10. Workers’ Comp Attorneys Never Charge Legal Fees Upfront
Some individuals may fear that an attorney will charge them before actively working with them to recover compensation through a workers’ comp claim. However, workers’ comp attorneys, like others, work on a contingency-fee basis. In other words, they won’t charge any legal fees unless their client wins a favorable settlement, nor will they charge for an initial consultation.
With these facts in mind, workers can take the necessary steps to recover compensation if they experience a workplace accident and injuries. By reporting an accident to employers, acting fast, and filing for both workers’ comp and personal injury when appropriate, injured workers may be able to recover the full compensation they deserve.