Workers’ compensation (also called workers’ comp or workman’s compensation) is a program that provides monetary benefits to workers who have been injured on the job, become ill, or who are otherwise unable to return to their jobs. It shouldn’t be confused with unemployment benefits or disability insurance. Workers’ comp exists to protect both employees and the employer. It protects employees financially when they would otherwise lose wages due to work-related injuries or illnesses, and in return for these benefits, employees waive the right to sue their employers. Generally, the only exception to this would be if the employer intentionally did something to harm a worker. The vast majority of employers are required to carry workman’s compensation, and even if they aren’t required, it’s recommendable as a form of risk tolerance.
Each U.S. state has its own laws regarding workers’ compensation (so the laws in North Carolina would differ from those in New York, for example) contained in its own Workers’ Compensation Act, and details often vary from state to state. That being said, thanks to the United States Department of Labor’s Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs (OCWP), federal employees and their dependents are provided with benefits for lost wages, medical care, vocational training, and more. Here are the primary workers’ compensation benefits provided to covered employees in most states and why they’re crucial for your financial security.
The last thing anyone needs is to work hard and save money towards their retirement fund, or anything else they’re working for, only to have it wiped out due to medical bills. Fortunately, work injuries are covered regardless of who was at fault, so you can get the medical treatment you need following a workplace accident. Medical coverage also protects workers who suffer from occupational illnesses, such as illnesses caused by breathing harmful fumes. Covered medical care includes fees for hospital stays and doctor visits, any tests or scans that are needed, medical equipment, medication, and physical therapy.
Medical benefits aren’t limited by monetary amounts, but some states may have a limit on the number of doctor visits they’ll cover. You may also need to go through an employer’s provider network. Medical treatment for a job injury could cripple many people financially without this coverage.
Sometimes workplace injuries result in disabilities that keep an injured employee away from work, and there are different levels of disability benefits that help make up lost wages during this time. The main difference between these benefits and those from disability insurance is that workman’s comp benefits are paid until your condition becomes stable, whereas state disability benefits are paid up to a maximum of one year.
Workers’ comp disability can be paid for temporary or permanent disabilities. They’re classified as total or partial, with total meaning that the injured worker is completely unable to work and partial meaning the injured worker is only able to work part-time while they heal. The monetary amount received will depend on the state and are based on a percentage of their normal wages. In some states, benefits for permanent disability may end when the worker reaches retirement age, which is one of many reasons it’s always wise to start saving for retirement as soon as possible. When it comes to a retirement account, make sure to ask a financial advisor about the best retirement plan (IRA or Roth IRA) and how much money you should be putting away into your individual retirement account on a monthly and yearly basis. Retirement accounts are not the same as an emergency fund, and it’s a good idea to have both saved up—one for when you reach retirement age and one in case of personal injury.
This is a type of training that assists workers who have physical, cognitive, or emotional restrictions after suffering a workplace injury. Services generally include refresher courses and additional training, consulting for job accommodations or modifications, career counseling, and employment searches if the worker is no longer able to perform their original duties. Putting your career on hold is no good for anyone, especially if you’re trying to build retirement savings, and these services get you back in action as soon as possible after a work accident.
In a worst-case scenario resulting in the death of a worker, death benefits will be paid to the worker’s dependents, and burial costs are covered as well. These benefits are separate from any life insurance policy the worker may have had.
Filing a Claim
The filing process for a workers’ compensation claim is similar to other personal injury claims with the exception that you need to notify your employer as soon as possible. If the injury is severe enough that you can’t inform your employer before receiving medical attention, it’s important that you get someone else to notify them when you can. After receiving medical care and following all doctor’s orders, you’ll need to make a written report of the personal injury to your employer within 30 days. Your paperwork will vary based on your state, but always make sure to keep copies of everything you file.
With any luck, the claim will go smoothly, and you’ll start receiving all your deserved benefits to secure your finances. Like all insurers, though, a workers’ compensation insurer doesn’t make money by paying out claims. If you believe your claim is being unjustly delayed or denied, you’ll need a legal pro on your side.
Building a Legal Case
Workers’ compensation law exists to protect you and ensure that you get the compensation you deserve following an occupational injury or illness. Medical expenses and other fees can cripple your bank account if your employer’s insurance carrier doesn’t do right by you. If you live in North Carolina, for example, and need help receiving your benefits from a workman’s comp insurance company, contact an expert like this workers compensation lawyer Raleigh NC.
If you’re having a challenging time getting your claim accepted, or if you believe you aren’t receiving the full benefits you’re entitled to, then an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who is knowledgable about the local laws can help you get justice. You may be wondering how you can afford this if your finances are already being drained as a consequence of your injury, but the good news is that workers’ compensation lawyers typically work on a contingency basis. This means they’ll only accept a percentage of the payout if you win your workers’ compensation case, so there’s practically no risk for you in trying.
Contingency cases are risks for lawyers, however. They stand to put in hours of hard work and get nothing in return if they accept a bad case. Because of this, you need to be prepared to argue your case as well as possible when you go in for your free initial consultation. You definitely need to bring your medical records as well as the written notice you gave your employer. If you have any photographic evidence of the injury or the site, that can help a great deal or at least add context to the situation. If you believe there’s video evidence on your employer’s security cameras, be sure to mention that in case it needs to be pulled in the future.
There’s no guarantee that your case will make it to court, and it’s actually unlikely. The vast majority of cases settle outside of court. If it does look to be heading that way, though, make sure to keep your doctor and attorney updated on your situation. The severity of your injury and the speed of your recovery can affect the amount of money you’ll be awarded on a successful verdict.
It can be nerve-wracking to appear in court when the day comes, but so long as you present yourself professionally, you should be fine. Men should at least wear a button-up collared shirt with dress pants and one of their blazers if not a full suit. Women can go with a professional sheath dress or long pants with an impressive blouse or casual dress shirt.
No legal case is a guaranteed win, but with the right professionals and the evidence on your side, you’ll have your best chance at a favorable verdict that secures your financial future.