For every 100 people employees hire, they reported 2.8 cases of work-place injury and illnesses in 2018.
Accidents at work happen. When they do, it’s critical to inquire about workers’ compensation benefits to avoid potential financial ruination. Here’s a brief look at seven crucial points concerning workers’ comp you must keep in mind to protect yourself.
1. Workers’ Comp State Regulations Vary
The workers comp law is dictated and governed by every state. The only exception here is the federal workers’ comp system, which deals with employees of the federal government.
Each state has its system even though the overall structure and operation remains the same. The rules and regulations each state employs are specifically meant to fit the needs of the local context.
As such, the claims process will look different from state to state, as will the calculation of premiums. The benefits which workers’ comp covers can also vary depending on each state.
Therefore, when you are dealing with a workers’ comp issue, you need to pick a lawyer conversant with the state’s law. An exceptional lawyer from New York can’t help you fight a workers’ comp case in Missouri, no matter how talented they might be.
2. Workers’ Comp Doesn’t Cover Every Worker
When it comes to workers’ comp, not every worker is an eligible employee. If you are a member of the gig economy, i.e., an independent contractor, then you are not entitled to claim workers’ comp.
Even if you have signed a 1099 tax form as an independent contractor that technically qualifies you for compensation, your workers’ comp claim will highly likely be disputed.
During such disputes, the court will scrutinize the amount of control you have over your schedule to determine if you are an employee or not.
Volunteers are another category of workers that typically don’t qualify to receive workers’ comp.
However, there are some exceptions to this rule, such as volunteer firefighters who receive coverage in some states. A few states do empower organizations by giving them the ability to cover their volunteers.
Many states also won’t require workers’ comp coverage for workers operating in private homes. For a few states, the exception to workers’ comp only applies to these workers if they work part-time.
3. There Are Time Limits to When You Can File a Claim
If you don’t file your workers’ comp claim in time, you may fail to receive the benefits, even if your case is valid.
There is a statute of limitations that applies to workers’ comp cases. As such, when you file a claim, you first need to ascertain whether you are within the statute of limitations.
Every state sets its law on what the statute of limitations is for workers’ comp. In the case of the federal workers’ comp program, the United States’ law will set the deadline for when you can file a claim when dealing with federal employees.
Most states give a window of between ten to 90 days in which you can file a claim. However, a rule of thumb here is to alert your employer as soon as you realize you have been injured or fallen sick while on-the-job.
As long as you let your employer know of the injury, you may still have a valid application even if you didn’t have a written notice.
After reporting the injury or illness to your employer, you still need to file a workers’ comp claim with the state. Specifically, you will be expected to present a claim to the state workers’ comp agency within one to three years after the injury or illness occurred.
With that said, there are a few exceptions to the statute of limitations.
If the injury resulted in a comma or you had to remain in quarantine due to the injury or illness, then you can still file a claim past the time limit. Special consideration is also given to late claims filed due to your having to get immediate and prolonged treatment.
4. Not All Injuries Qualify for Compensation
Just because you got injured or fell sick while working doesn’t automatically qualify you for workers’ comp.
Any worker who suffers self-inflicted injuries can’t apply for workers’ comp. Similarly, if you suffer injury or illness while under the influence of illegal narcotics or alcohol, your application for workers’ comp will be turned down.
Did you get sick or injured while doing something that violates company policy? Chances are high that you may not be eligible for workers’ comp as well.
5. You Won’t Need to Prove Your Boss Was at Fault
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault policy. What that means is that no matter who was at fault, as long as you are eligible, you will receive compensation. Therefore, the burden to prove your employer was at fault won’t apply when filing a claim.
Moreover, the amount of compensation at play is not affected by whether you are at fault for the injury or not.
6. Workers’ Comp Lawyers Work Operate On a Contingency Basis
Most lawyers work on a contingency basis in workers’ comp resolution.
When you approach an attorney, they will thoroughly assess your case. If they feel it has favorable odds, they will take it on with no upfront fee charge.
If you win and receive compensation, they will receive a percentage of it.
But what about when you lose? The attorney won’t charge you a fee.
State laws tightly regulate attorney fees for workers’ comp cases. However, beware that some firms can still charge you out-of-pocket expenses if you lose the case.
7. You Can Still Sue Your Employer
Although by applying for workers’ comp, you forego the right to sue your employer, there are exceptions to this.
If you can prove your employer intentionally caused the injury, or it was outside of your job’s assignment, litigation can be an option.
Understand the Issues Affecting Workers Compensation Benefits
When you suffer an accident or fall ill while-on-the the job, you need to know you’re protected. Part of that protection includes accessing workers’ compensation benefits to help manage the financial obligations that come with the injury or illness. Take the time to study issues surrounding workers’ comp to identify how you can best protect your interests.
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