Worker Compensation laws or "Workman's Compensation" are designed to protect employees that are injured on the job. The main benefit of these laws is to protect the worker from poverty due to being unable to work by paying for any medical expenses they suffered during the accident and to recoup lost wages due to the injury. The benefit on the company's side is that workers agree to give up their right to sue the company for the incident. Worker's comp will usually pay for the appropriate medical care of the worker, including ongoing physiotherapy, medications and rehabilitation. It also pays out benefits to the family of the workers in the rare case that they are killed on the job. Some laws now protect the employer by limiting the amount the worker can claim back, as well as limiting the claimed liability of co-workers present at the accident.
While Workers Compensation Laws aim to protect employees, it is also a good idea for injured workers to consult an attorney who can offer advice on the specific laws in your area, preventing their benefits being dropped prematurely and arguing for a better deal. You should hire a reputable personal injury lawyer and first explore the specific Worker Compensation benefits and statutes that apply to you in your state. Another thing to consider is that some workers can be restricted from obtaining their benefits if the incidents happened during wilful misconduct or the accident happened while the worker was intoxicated.
There are special federal laws which can help provide you with additional protection, depending on the type of work you have been involved with. Several of these will be explained below. Workers who have been injured by asbestos should also be aware of the possibility of the creation of a new compensation scheme by the federal government which aids those suffering from mesothelioma and related diseases due to exposure to asbestos. Unfortunately in current times these cases are still dealt with by private attorneys only.
Miners suffering from health problems due to pneumoconiosis (black lung) can be provided with compensation due to The Black Lung Benefits Act.
While working on U.S.-flagged vessels, seamen with maintenance and cure benefits now have the ability to seek additional compensation due to The Merchant Marine Act (The Jones Act) when they are injured due to negligence of their employer.
Workers compensation laws also make additional benefits available to private maritime employees due to The Longshore and Harbor Worker's Compensation Act (LHWCA). The LHWCA only applies to certain classes of employees.
Finally, there is the Federal Employment Liability Act (FELA). This act deals with injuries to employees with companies involved in the interstate railroad and makes the railroads themselves liable to employees in cases of negligence.
Usually on-the-job injuries are minor and the workers recover quickly, and the worker may only be barely aware of the laws that are offered to him. Workers compensation laws are also designed to qualify employees for benefits that may be required beyond the initial injury, especially where more serious injuries are concerned. Medical expenses and lost pay are two categories that aim to be defended through workers compensation laws. Unfortunately, some companies will try to avoid paying their employees what they are due and this is where workers may benefit from contacting a personal injury lawyer. Compared to litigation for other types of injury, workers compensation litigation is considered to be simpler to obtain a result from as most of the rules are evidential (evidence-based) and the litigation takes place in an administrative setting.
The main reason that workers need to hire a workers comp lawyer is for the times that the employer refuses to pay out the benefits that the person is entitled to due to workers compensation laws. They may feel that they are being asked to return to work too early and thus aren't receiving the correct disability payments in spite of the injuries that they have suffered. Workers may be denied permanent disability despite a significant and disabling injury such as the loss of a limb or spinal injury. You may want to talk to a compensation lawyer if you are declared fit for work when you do not feel that you are able to return yet.
It is important to use a lawyer when in these situations as the typical employee simply does not know workers compensation laws well enough to protect themselves legally. Your employer will be well informed and likely has their own legal expertise in the compensation system, as well as knowing how to avoid paying you your due and terminate worker's benefits early. Many workers can fall into the trap of returning to work in a 'specially created' position with duties that they are available to perform even with their injury. Once they return to this position, they then find that the position is eliminated within weeks and the worker is made redundant - due to this, they find that they are no longer eligible for benefits under workers compensation laws.
Employers may make you visit their own doctors that are sympathetic to the company and are more interested in maintaining that relationship than accurately diagnosing the workers complaints, preventing you from necessary medical treatment. The employer then uses this evidence to withhold benefits that are owed to the worker. By using a personal injury lawyer workers can avoid these common pitfalls and protect their rights. Make sure to seek out a lawyer that handles a lot of cases that handle workers compensation laws, as they are more likely to have experience with the correct members of administration, including the defense lawyers and medical professionals that may be attempting to block your claim to benefits. By hiring an experienced lawyer you can ensure that your rights are protected and that you collect everything that you are due, either in benefits or by settling your compensation claim with a maximum pay-off.
Due to the laws, an employee qualifying for worker's compensation benefits are unable to file personal injury suits against the employer unless they meet an exception such as an employer intentionally injuring a worker. This exception is not usually observed as intentional malice must be proven - work place negligence is not enough. The other main exception is when an employer fails to carry the coverage for the correct worker's compensation.