According to research, there are an average of 2.8 million workplace injuries in the USA each year. This means that every 7 seconds, someone gets hurt on the job, and needs to seek out workers’ comp for living assistance.
Workers’ compensation can be a lifesaver, it can help you with your activities of daily living such as paying your household bills, living expenses, medical bills, putting food on the table, and helping to support your family.
This is only in the case that you are injured to the point where you cannot work at your job, and only if it has been set up properly so you reap the full benefits.
So the problem is, how do you know how much money will be provided to you, and how can you optimize your workers’ comp so that you are not suffering financially as well as physically?
Keep on reading to learn everything there is to know about workers’ comp and how you can get paid.
Workers’ Compensation History
Back in the early 1900s, labor laws were quite different than they are now. If you were injured on the job, your only option was to sue your employer to prove it was their fault why you were hurt. So not only were you injured and couldn’t work, but you also had to cover the legal costs and costs of your injury treatments!
However, if you were one of the many railway workers on the Union Pacific, there is no way you would have the financial means to support any of this or hire a good enough lawyer to prove that it was your employer’s fault.
Thankfully, by 1949, all employers in every single state were ordered to provide some type of workers’ compensation for their workers.
How Does Workers’ Compensation Work?
In the unfortunate circumstance that you become injured or sick because of your job, workers’ compensation is there to help you.
It begins by you filing a claim, usually with the HR department of your employer, and the funds are paid to you by the employers’ workers compensation insurance.
Most people who become sick or injured due to their job believe that their situation will not be covered, so they neglect to even try and apply for their benefits. Even if you are at fault you could still be covered by workers’ comp, because this happened while you were at work.
If your illness, disability, or injury is caused by a work-related incident, then chances are that you will qualify. It is better to believe that you will receive your benefits than to give up before you even try and believe that you won’t.
Understanding how workers’ comp works will help you to not only file your claim properly but also could help you receive more money.
Different Types of Workers’ Comp
There are many different categories of workers’ compensation, and each one is determined by the severity of injury, illness, or issue that you have developed. Some types require you to stay at work and carry out light duties, and other types ensure that you should not enter the premise of your work while you are injured.
Keep in mind that each State has its own regulations for workers’ comp so your benefits may vary from state to state.
Loss of Earning Power
If you are not severely injured, but enough to the point where you cannot complete your current job duties. The loss of earning power benefits help you return to work with a lower-paying position and pay the difference.
For example, if you are a carpenter and are injured on the job site, you can still return and work in the office or do light duties. Because these duties pay much less than your typical position, your employer will pay you the difference through the workers’ compensation system.
This covers the costs that a worker may incur while treating the symptoms and the injury that occurred while at work.
- Hospital Visits
- Doctor’s visits
- Emergency room costs
- Ambulance costs
- Cost of medications
- rehabilitation visits
- Psychiatry visits due to psychological injury
- Medical equipment such as crutches or wheelchairs etc.
Depending on the state you live in, you may be limited to a certain selection (or list) of doctors who work with the workers’ compensation system. If you seek treatment from a specialist who is not on the list, you may be responsible for all of those costs.
To qualify for extra treatment costs such as physical therapy, chiropractic care or rehabilitation, your doctor will have to give you approval, without this approval, you are liable.
Alternative treatments such as acupuncture, homeopathic medicine, reiki, and similar treatments may not be accepted.
The most important takeaway is to keep in communication with your doctor and the workers’ compensation or the HR department of your employer. Failure to keep in contact may cause you to lose your benefits.
Different Levels of Disability
Depending on your injury, there are different levels of assistance that you may be eligible for. This is classified into four main categories:
This is when an employee is unable to work for a temporary time due to an injury in the workplace, such as a dislocated shoulder, back injury, or muscle strain. The workers’ comp will cover their wages until they return to work again, usually within a couple of weeks to a month.
If an employee injures themselves but is still able to handle smaller tasks or a half-days work, then the workers’ comp will cover the difference in their wages. For example, if you twist your knee and cannot walk a long time, but you can still sit and do work, then you will be covered.
This happens in the unfortunate circumstance that a permanent injury occurs such as an employee losing their hand in a machinery accident. They are unable to return to work, even with light duties. The workers’ comp will have to cover their future costs and finances due to this work-related accident.
If an employee permanently injures themselves at work but is still able to handle a lighter duty, the permanent partial compensation will help them. For example, if an employee has a repetitive strain injury, they no longer can do that movement, however, there are other duties they can work but with a pay-cut. The compensation will have to permanently cover the differences.
Things You Should Know About Worker’s Comp
When employees are injured on the job, the first thing they care about, besides getting better, is where their finances come from. This creates an urgency feeling to rush through the paperwork to ensure they are getting compensated through their employer’s compensation insurance.
However, keep in mind that the second you file for compensation, you completely lose the right to sue your employer, which means you could have received a lot more money.
If your injury, illness, or issue was caused by the negligence of the company, such as a purposeful injury caused by someone else, lack of maintenance with machinery, or employer’s complacency, your employer is at fault for your injury and you have a right to sue them.
The first step to take in this situation is to make an appointment with one of your local workers compensation doctors for proof of your injury, then you will need a personal or workplace injury lawyer for the legal portion.
All of these steps must be taken before you file for workers’ comp through your employer because once you file, you cannot go back and then file a lawsuit.
How to Make the Most Out of Your Claim
In most impermanent cases, it is advisable to take the compensation so that you can avoid the hassle of dealing with lawyers and the financial costs that come along with it. Your employer wants you to get better so that you can get back on the job again and prevent another incident.
A great resource to learn more details regarding specific state laws with workers’ compensation insurance is the Workers Compensation Insurance website. There you will find a complete list, state-by-state, of what is covered along with personal stories and forums with people that were helped by compensation insurance.
Learn More About Your Rights as an Injured Employee
Hopefully, you will not have to experience filing a lawsuit or dealing with workers’ comp, but in the situation that you do, this article will help you understand your rights and what to do.
If you have financial worries, you are not alone. We have many financial articles to help you get out of your financial problems and see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Check out our article about budgeting strategies that will help you to save money, fast!