Workers' Comp Insurance
Workers' compensation insurance helps employees who experience occupational disease or work-related injury to obtain the financial aid needed to reclaim their lives without the risks associated with litigation. It ensures speedy and certain (albeit more limited) benefits to workers, regardless of who is at fault. Employers bear the cost of workers' compensation insurance but in return enjoy immunity from civil lawsuits with respect to those illnesses and injuries.
If you have an injury or illness as a result of a hazardous work condition such as slippery floors or toxic exposure, you may be entitled to medical care and other workers' compensation benefits. Workers' compensation insurance involves complex laws that vary by jurisdiction. To find out more about how workers' compensation insurance coverage applies to your case, speak to a workers' compensation attorney.
Workers' Compensation Insurance: Federal and State Law
The Department of Labor's Office of Workers' Compensation (OWCP) oversees workers' compensation programs for federal employees.
Workers' compensation insurance for employees of private companies and local and state government agencies is regulated by state workers' compensation boards.
State Workers' Compensation. Most states require employers to carry workers' compensation insurance with very limited exception. Generally workers' compensation insurance is funded in one of the following ways:
- The employer contracts with a private insurance carrier, or
- The employer is self-insured (requires state approval and is more commonly seen in larger employers than smaller ones), or
- The state has its own fund that the employer can or is required to pay into. The latter is sometimes referred to as a monopoly state.
Additionally, certain classes of employees such as partners, sole proprietors, corporate officers, volunteers and domestic servants are commonly excluded from workers' compensation policies (though some may "opt in" for coverage).
Federal Workers' Compensation. There are four major workers' compensation programs that provide benefits to federal workers (and certain survivors of deceased workers) that are injured or ill as a result of their job:
- The Federal Employment Compensation Act provides benefits to non-military federal and postal workers who have a work-related injury or illness (see sidebar).
- The Black Lung Benefits Act provides benefits to coal miners who suffer from lung diseases related to pneumoconiosis arising out of coal mining employment.
- The Energy Employees Occupational Illness Compensation Program provides benefits to eligible Department of Energy nuclear weapons workers (including employees, former employees, contractors and subcontractors).
- The Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act provides benefits to workers who are injured or contract occupational diseases on the navigable waters of the United States; to employees on American defense bases; and to other select personnel working outside of the continental United States.
To learn more about federal and state workers' compensation insurance programs consult a workers' compensation lawyer.
Workers' Compensation Insurance: Benefits
Generally, workers' compensation insurance is intended to provide financial assistance to an injured worker to help his or her recovery and return to work, and/or long-term assistance if the workers' compensation injury or illness leaves the worker permanently disabled. Though the exact benefits may vary by jurisdiction, most insurance provides financial remuneration to injured workers for the following:
- Medical expenses (full coverage)
- Partial temporary wage replacement (usually up to two-thirds of lost income)
- Permanent disability award (if you cannot return to your original job, or to any job after treatment)
- Vocational and medical rehabilitation (to return to work)
- Death benefits (funeral expenses and lost income awards to dependent family members)
Additionally, while workers' compensation awards are limited (e.g., no pain and suffering or punitive damages), many states have expanded their statutory schemes to provide "enhanced" benefits when an employer commits certain bad acts (e.g., retaliatory discharge).
Workers' Compensation Attorney
Workers usually begin to receive payments within weeks after the claim is filed. However, it is important to notify your employer as soon as you are injured and file your claim on a timely basis or you could lose your rights forever. Whether filing a state or federal claim, you will want to have a skilled attorney with you every step of the way.
Workers' compensation benefits are exempt from tax for both the worker and the worker's survivors.