It might surprise many to find that workers’ compensation has a long history. As far back as 2050 B.C., in the city-state of Ur, the law at the time was to provide compensation for injury received while working. Typically, this would be for the loss of a body part. Ancient Chinese, Arab, and Greek law all had versions of this system, with compensation schemes to accompany each body part lost.
Fast-forward thousands of years later, and workers’ comp is alive and well.Here are some frequently asked questions about workers’ compensation in the US and what you should know if you get injured.
Questions and Answers on Workers’ Compensation and What to Do If Injured
Q: Do all employers provide workers’ compensation?
A: Most states have laws that require every employer to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. Some states, such as Alabama and Wisconsin, allow for voluntary coverage. To find out whether it is mandatory in your state for employers to have workers’ comp insurance, go to this page on the US Department of Labor’s website. Most employers will have workers’ comp insurance as a protection against prosecution and threat of being sued. So there’s a good chance your employer has it.
In the US, employers that take part in the system are often protected from liability for injuries covered under workers’ comp. Although an employee can sue a third party that may be liable for their injury. Or they can sue an employer directly if the employee feels that the employer’s deliberate negligence caused the injury.
Q: What kind of injuries are eligible for workers’ comp?
A: The general answer to this question is that workers’ comp was designed to provide compensation for injuries sustained while on the job. Common workers’ comp injuries include the following:
- Sprains and strains
- Hearing loss
- Slips or falls
- Being struck by a falling object
- Traffic accident injury
- Machinery accident injury
- Repetitive motion injury
There are exceptions, however. For example, injuries sustained while on your lunch break are not covered. Neither is travel to and from your work site. However, if your work dictates that you travel, such as a sales call, and you sustain an injury during that trip, then such an injury would be covered.
Q: What is covered by workers’ comp insurance? What kind of payout can I expect?
A: Workers’ compensation includes coverage of hospital and medical bills to treat your work injury. While the particulars may vary from state to state, the fundamentals covered are medical bills and related expenses. This may include counseling, acupuncture for pain management, wheelchairs. And/or other equipment to help you deal with your injury.
Depending on the type of injury received, you may be eligible for disability benefits. Disability benefits are meant to cover wages lost while you are unable to work due to your injury. There are four categories of disability.
- Temporary total disability. This applies when your disability prohibits you from working at all during a temporary amount of time. For example, if your leg is broken, or a surgery is required where full functionality is expected once recovery is complete.
- Temporary partial disability. This applies when your injury limits your work capacity but does not entirely prevent it and full recovery is expected.
- Permanent total disability. To get permanent disability from worker’s compensation one must be entirely unable to return to your previous work. For example, if you were a train conductor, the loss of your eyesight while on the job would incapacitate you from returning to your duties.
- Permanent partial disability. This applies when your injury partially hinders your ability to return to your former work.
Q: Should I hire a lawyer for my workers’ comp case?
A: You may be able to handle the case yourself, particularly if the injury is small, and the facts of your case are straightforward. However, not all situations are uncomplicated. And even in uncomplicated situations, tensions can arise that may make it easier for you to have your case handled by a lawyer.