Workers’ Compensation 101

If you’ve been injured at work and are unable to do your job, what’s next? Who will pay the medical bills? What will happen to your pay? This is where workers’ compensation comes in. Workers’ compensation acts as a safety net in case you get injured on the job.

construction workers Before workers’ compensation, employees had little legal options. They could file a tort suit against their employer and try to prove that their accident was caused directly by their negligence. However, the rulings always usually favored the employer (but in cases were it didn’t, the employer lost a substantial amount). The employer could also fire the employee after his injury without compensation because he or she is unable to work. In order to prevent a system of exploitation, workers’ compensations programs were created and are administered by the states.

What is Workers’ Compensation?

As a general definition, workers’ compensation offers benefits for employees that are injured on the job. In return, employees will not sue the employer for the accident. Workers’ compensation covers the recovery of lost wages, medical treatment, and compensation for permanent disability.

Recovery of Lost Wages

Recovered wages incur when you are unable to work because of your injury. Obviously, the bills are still coming regardless of how quickly (or slowly) you heal. Therefore, it is important to be compensated for the time lost at work. However, be aware that it is usually not the full amount. You are usually compensated a percentage of your pay or around two-thirds. It varies state to state.

Be sure to manage your bills carefully while you are out of work. Carefully budget the money coming into the household and the money going out. This will relieve some of the stress of finances and you can work on feeling better.

Medical Treatment

Medical benefits under workers’ compensation will ensure that you receive the necessary medical attention to treat your injury. It will not be billed to you, but instead it will be billed to the state or your employers insurance. Appropriate medical treatment can include anything from doctor’s visits, prescriptions, surgeries, etc.

Compensation for Permanent Disability

Compensation for permanent disability is divided into two categories: permanent total disability and permanent partial disability.

Permanent total disability (also known as lifetime pension) refers to when you are severely handicapped because of a workplace accident. Your severe handicap makes you unable to return to work and because of this, you will receive regular payments based on your wages. It is important to know what your state defines as permanently disabled. An example of a permanent total disability is when you have become blind because of the accident.

Permanent partial disability is when a workplace-related injury affects two body parts, but you are still able to return to some sort of work. A medical expert will assess the seriousness of your injury and you will be given an impairment rating. This rating is important because it will decide how much you will receive in compensation. The compensation can either be paid over a period of time or in a lump sum.

Don’t Wait

When an accident occurs, report it immediately. There is a statue of limitations about reporting your accident and you don’t want to lose credibility on the seriousness of your injury by continuing to work. Do not be afraid of an employer backlash. There are laws in place that protect you from being fired for filing a worker compensation claim.

Finally, it is not a bad idea to consider legal help when it comes to workers’ compensation. Your employer’s insurance might fight you on the severity of your injury.

Sources: U.S. Social Security Administration Office of Policy and Disability Secrets

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