How Workers’ Compensation Works

Picture what is supposed to be a nice day at work. You have your lunch packed, your favorite coworker just clocked in, it’s casual Friday, and your jeans have never fit better. Of course, nothing could ruin this otherwise-perfect shift faster than getting injured at work.

This scenario is all too common. It’s not rare that someone slips and falls on a wet spot on the ground or throws their back out lifting a heavy crate while on the clock. Damages caused by a workplace-related accident can lead to long-term effects for the injured person, not to mention the hefty medical bills and lost wages that accrue over time. One way to provide coverage for the harmed individual is through workers’ compensation.

Workers’ compensation in the United States covers appropriate medical care to the employee, and in certain cases can provide payment to help compensate for resulting disabilities. Employers are given three defenses to limit claims against them. The first one is referred to as the Fellow Servant Doctrine: if the injury was caused by a coworker, it is not the fault of the company but rather that coworker. The second calls into question the negligence of the employee. If the employee didn’t take reasonable measures to stay safe then the company cannot be held liable. Finally, employees accept a certain amount of risks when they accept a job and are to be held liable for those risks. For claims that fall outside of those three areas, workers’ compensation comes into play.

In exchange for receiving this compensation, workers voluntarily give up their rights to sue their employers for negligence. This “compensation bargain” is a tradeoff that prevents employees from double dipping, so to speak. If someone were to receive adequate workers’ compensation and then sue their employer, they would be receiving an unfair amount of compensation. In addition, employees cannot claim damages due to pain and suffering, and they cannot seek punitive damages for negligence.
Workers’ comp can function as a form of disability insurance, providing a weekly payment in lieu of the wages the employee would have received if he or she were able to work. It also acts as health insurance by covering medical expenses. Finally, if the worker was killed during employment, their dependents can receive benefits on the behalf of the deceased.

Unfortunately, many workers’ compensation cases go unreported. Underreporting of these cases stem from a fear of retaliation from the employer. For states that practice at-will employment, these cases can make or break a relationship with an employer. Wrongful denial of these cases is also an issue. Some companies choose not to provide adequate compensation to an injured employee, which can lead to massive debt. For this, many law firms like Hammack Law Firm will go after the employer and seek justice. They help navigate workers’ compensation laws so that the injured employee has the means to pay their medical bills and account for lost wages.