What is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation comes into play following an on the job injury. In a perfect world, workers’ compensation is a no fault system that provides a fast and simple way for workers’ to receive medical treatment and partial wage replacement after an on-the-job injury. It also helps employers because the workers’ compensation provides much more limited damages than civil cases and (when the system works like it should) helps get injured workers back in the workforce as quickly as possible, which is best for everyone involved.
So what types of things does workers’ compensation cover?
- Payment for medical bills that are due to the on-the-job injury
- A portion of lost wages
- Death Benefits
- Rehabilitation Costs
- Compensation for mileage for trips to/from medical visits
So how are lost wages calculated?
This can vary from state to state. In SC and NC, workers’ compensation pays 2/3 of an injured workers’ average weekly wage. Although how the average weekly wage is calculated is a little bit different, both states look at the wages the injured worker earned over roughly the last year. The resulting figure is the injured worker’s compensation rate. The compensation rate is a very important number in workers’ compensation cases because it is the basis for how many of the benefits available under the system are calculated.
So what if I have only been on my job a short time?
The length of employment can impact properly calculating an injured worker’s average weekly wage and compensation rate. Where an injured worker has only been on the job a short period of time, it may not be fair to the injured worker to use only a brief snapshot of his or her wages to calculate the average weekly wage and compensation rate. In those cases, discovery sometimes needs to be done to get information about what other comparable employees with a longer job tenure earned to ensure the injured worker was treated fairly.
On-the-job injuries can lead to lost time from work. Physical limitations resulting from work injuries can at times last days, months, or even years. In some instances, an on-the-job injury may completely disable an injured worker from returning to work. Workers’ compensation is a way of making sure those individuals have some form of income while they are out of work. When an injury results in death, workers’ compensation death benefits will cover the expense of a funeral up to a certain amount in addition to providing support for the family of the deceased for a certain period of time.
There are incidents that happen on-the-job that are not covered by workers’ compensation. For example, if an employee is injured on the job while using drugs or alcohol and was intoxicated at the time of the injury and the employee’s intoxication caused the incident, benefits are not available. Injuries caused by horseplay and other similar things can also take an incident outside the scope of workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ compensation is a very nuanced field of the law. If you have been hurt on the job, seek the advice of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer. It is important to know what portion of the attorney’s practice is devoted to workers’ compensation to ensure the attorney has the experience and knowledge to help maximize recovery and ensure the injured worker is treated fairly.
Former Executive Committee Member
Injured Workers’ Advocates
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