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Workers' Compensation

We all work hard at our professions. But if we get injured on the job, will our job work hard for us? Workers' compensation provides the exclusive remedy in most states for employees who suffer on-the-job injuries. Most workers' compensation claims must follow strict procedural guidelines that can be confusing for the layperson to understand. FindLaw's Workers' Compensation section contains resources and information concerning the issues that may arise from a workers' compensation claim.

This section offers information on workers' rights to safety in the workplace, specifics on benefits for injured workers, and the employer's obligations under most state and federal systems. You will also find in-depth information for injured railroad employees and workers who have been hurt in construction accidents, from the basics of worksite accidents to specifics on scaffold injuries. Finally, this section provides tips on each phase of the workers' compensation claims process and access to experienced workers' compensation attorneys.

Workers' Compensation Coverage

The first step in any workers' compensation claim is determining whether or not you are covered. Generally, there are two main factors that determine your coverage:

  • Whether you are an employee, and
  • Whether your injury occurred as a result of your employment.

Neither of these factors is an absolute guarantee that you'll be covered by workers' compensation, however, as some employees are not covered by workers' compensation. Coverage will normally depend on the laws in your state. Workers' compensation also doesn't cover injuries that were intentional or that occurred while intoxicated.

Employee Rights and Employer Responsibilities

Employees have the responsibility to comply with workplace rules and regulations and to report any injuries as promptly as possible. Employees also must cooperate with rehabilitation service providers or risk a reduction, if not suspension, of wage loss benefits. If he or she follows workers' compensation guidelines, an employee has a right to lost wages and vocational rehabilitation.

Employers also have statutory and regulatory responsibilities that they must fulfill in addition to providing lost wages and rehabilitation opportunities. These can vary from state to state. For example, some states require employers to offer rehabilitation-counseling services to any employee who has an injury that has resulted in 60 days of lost time from work, while other states, give employers 120 days if the injury resulted in a loss of "suitable gainful employment." Employers in some states may be required to pay for tuition, living expenses, room and board, child care expenses, and travel expenses on top of the regular wage loss benefits if an employee is enrolled in certain vocational rehabilitation programs.

Workers' Compensation Benefits

In addition to the payment of wages lost by not being able to work, injured employees generally can receive rehabilitation benefits. "Rehabilitation" in the workers' compensation context has two distinct meanings. The first is what most people think of as rehabilitation: physical therapy or rehabilitative care aimed at overcoming an injury and regaining functionality. The second is the concept of "vocational" rehabilitation. Many states offer this type of rehabilitation to injured workers who cannot return to their former employment, often at the expense of their employer's workers' compensation carrier.

Hiring a Workers' Compensation Attorney

Suing your employer for workplace injuries may disqualify you from collecting workers' compensation benefits. That being said, it never hurts to speak with an attorney if you have questions about your injury, whether it's covered, and what's considered reasonable compensation.