What is Workers Compensation?
Workers compensation is a form of insurance that provides medical and wage benefits to workers who are injured or sickened on the job. Every state mandates workers compensation coverage, and the benefits vary from state to state.
Most companies with more than one to five employees, depending on state rules, must purchase workers compensation. The coverage is underwritten by insurance companies or, in a few cases, by a publicly supported state fund.
In addition to providing medical expenses, lost wages, and rehabilitation costs to workers injured “in the course and scope” of their job, workers compensation pays death benefits to the families of employees who are killed on the job.
Workplace accidents happen around the clock, every day, all year long, and every company has its own way of dealing with workplace injuries or death. Very often, workers compensation laws are very specific as to what benefits may be provided to an injured employee or to the family of a worker who has died as a result of a job-related incident.
Sometimes an employer may try to take advantage of an employee, pressuring him or her not to contact an attorney and promising they will fairly compensate the employee for work-related their injuries. This may not always be true. The process of seeking compensation for medical bills, lost work, and other hardships through insurance claims or legal venues can be a frustrating challenge that sometimes makes employees feel as if they’re being punished for their injury.
Also, by accepting a financial settlement, the employee usually forfeits the right to seek additional compensation in the future and/or gives up the right to sue his employer for additional damages. If the employee suffers other problems stemming from the injury weeks, months, or even years later, there is no recourse for additional financial relief.
An attorney can help victims of an on-the-job injury or wrongful death navigate the workers compensation laws and identify other possible sources of compensation, such as a third-party liability claim.
What to do if you suffer an On the Job Injury
To claim for a work-related injury, you will need some evidence that your injuries are the result of an injury on the job or other work-related accident. This can be in the form of witnesses, employers’ logs, previous similar incidents, ambulance attendance at the scene plus many others. Then, it will have to be proven that the injuries were the liability of the employer.
- Report any incident in which you are injured, no matter how minor it may seem initially. Reporting injury will protect both the worker and the employer. Many people feel ok immediately following an injury but realize hours later or the next day that it was more serious than initially thought.
- Obtain a claim form for workers compensation and other information about any additional compensation from the employer.
- Expect that the employer may request to review medical records or an independent medical examination. The employer may also offer the employee an alternate light-duty assignment or similar return-to-work offer.
- Injured workers may often find they are being investigated. Government agencies and insurance companies both employ investigators whose sole responsibility is to probe claimants for behavior and activities indicative of insurance fraud. Some insurance companies that provide workers compensation benefits aggressively fight claims or seek to discredit them. It’s important that the injured worker understands this when filing a disability claim.
- Talk to a lawyer to make sure that you are being treated fairly and that you know your legal rights under your state’s workers compensation laws.
Third-party liability claims
Since workers’ compensation benefits are limited, it is extremely important to evaluate these claims to determine if a third-party claim exists. What may initially appear to be a workers’ compensation claim may turn out to be a case involving a dangerous product or piece of equipment.
If a product causes a serious on-the-job injury or death, a third-party claim can sometimes be filed against the designer, manufacturer or seller and/or the assembler of the machinery.
Product liability is the area of law in which manufacturers, distributors, suppliers, retailers, and others who make products available to the public are held responsible for the injuries those products cause. Most of these injuries could be avoided if the distributor or manufacturer of these products took additional steps to ensure the safety of its consumers.
Industrial products may include manufacturing equipment, construction equipment and tools. When a worker is seriously injured or killed on the job, it is important to look closely at the working environment. Machinery may lack proper safety guards; safety instructions may not be properly posted or may be missing altogether; the industrial product may not be properly secured, or workers may have been instructed to use the product improperly.
For example, in a recent Beasley Allen case, our client was killed on the job in an accident in the Gulf of Mexico. The death benefits provided under the statute were less than $50,000. However, we filed a third-party claim in this case, which resulted in a substantial jury verdict.