workers compensation

How do worker’s compensation laws work?

Worker’s compensation laws are extensive and difficult to understand. Since most states require worker’s comp laws, they apply to virtually all employed people in the United States. These laws provide workers with coverage of medical expenses for accidents occurring on the job. But worker’s compensation laws also serve to protect employers from liability lawsuits.

There is a wide array of circumstances which can elicit worker’s comp cases. Problems may occur when employers do not keep their worker’s compensation insurance current or when employees fail to report their injuries in a timely manner. If an employer is unaware of the injury, worker’s compensation laws fail to help the injured employee. To take advantage of these laws and protect both workers and businesses, both employees and employers need to be aware of how the law works.

This week, we compiled useful information and tips gathered from our panel of legal professionals:

1) Faulty Equipment vs. Work Injury

There is a difference between faulty equipment from a manufacturer and being injured on the job. For example, according to attorney Judah Fuld,

If the worker was injured by a malfunctioning piece of equipment or machinery, then a worker should seek legal advice regarding a products liability lawsuit. Although a worker is barred from suing their employer who provides worker’s compensation, there is no such bar against a third party who might have contributed towards the injury.”

If your injury is a result of a malfunctioning tool or piece of equipment used on the job, you will probably have more luck filing a products liability lawsuit. Whereas, falling off a ladder while painting at work, is an accident that occurs on the job.

2) Insurance Company vs. Employer Responsibility

The insurance company covering your medical expenses handles your worker’s compensation claim, not your employer. Therefore, communicating every step of your recovery and return to work status is vital if you would like a job when you return. In fact, according to attorney Leighton Rockafellow,

The employer has no obligation to hold your job for you while you are out. You can be terminated or laid off during your recovery. The insurance company, not the employer, handles the claim. Communicate with your employer to tell them the status of your recovery or, probably, your return to work date is not necessary.”

Worker’s compensation laws do not necessarily protect your job, so communicate with your employer while you are healing.

3) Benefits of Hiring a Lawyer

While hiring a lawyer is by no means required to handle a worker’s compensation claim, it is not a bad idea. Insurance companies have no incentive to give you any more compensation than they are forced to. A lawyer can advocate for your worker’s compensation claim and get you the largest settlement possible. Attorney Michael Helfand expands,

It’s not mandatory to hire a lawyer, but the truth is that you will always do better with one than without. In the least it’s a security blanket in case something goes wrong. Insurance companies make money by limiting what they pay you. Don’t let their profits come at your expense. Often, insurance companies will break the law (for example, in Illinois it’s illegal for them to talk to your doctor, but they will try to do that anyway through nurse case managers).”

To sum it up, worker’s compensation claims must result directly from performing your job, not faulty or malfunctioning equipment. Once a claim is filed, it is in the hands of the insurance company, not your employer, so communicate with them diligently to keep your job. Finally, a lawyer can be of great use to help navigate the complicated worker’s compensation laws and work with the insurance company on your behalf.