Published On: Tue, Sep 12th, 2017

Workers Compensation: 5 Things All Employees Need To Know

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As hard as employers try to mitigate the risks and hazards of the workplace, it’s a sad fact that accidents do happen in which employees are injured. These accidents can be highly damaging both to the employer and employee. The employer’s reputation may suffer a tarnished reputation while employees will face lost earnings, medical expenses and of course the physical and psychological trauma of injury and subsequent recovery. Many employees have heard of Worker’s Compensation but when injury strikes, it’s difficult to know how best to proceed.

Workers want (and deserve) to be compensated for their losses especially when faced with the prospect of cripplingly expensive medical care. On the other hand, they may have great relationships with their employers, their boss and their colleagues and bear their injury quietly out of an aversion to rocking the boat or alienating their higher-ups.

With this in mind, we’ve compiled these facts with which all workers should familiarize themselves should the unthinkable happen…


You don’t need to hire an attorney… But you probably should

Upon injury, many people hire an attorney straight away. Whether it’s a pedestrian injury lawyer after an accident on the sidewalk or a traffic injury lawyer after a collision on the road, it’s become second nature to enlist legal counsel in some cases even before medical attention is sought. The legislative infrastructure when it comes to workplace injuries is slightly different. Most states have their own systems in place to resolve injury claims directly with the injured worker without the necessity to spend time and money on hiring legal counsel to file your claim.

Employees are perfectly able to represent themselves although it should be borne in mind that few workers know the legalities of workers comp quite as well as the average claimant’s lawyer. Most compensation claims are subject to compensation so the only really thorny issues are the nature of the claim (which is to say the circumstances of the injury and how the employer’s safety infrastructure has fallen short), and the extent of the impairment or disability caused.

Whether you have legal representation or not, your final settlement amount is likely to be the same, although an attorney is far more likely to help ensure that you receive everything that you are owed and that all the pertinent factors are born in mind when assessing the value of the claim.

Lawyers, however, aren’t known for coming cheap. In most, a claimant’s attorneys can take anywhere from 20% – 33% of the final settlement as their fee, not to mention additional fees and expenses. If a claimant resolves a claim on their own, they may secure a smaller settlement that comes to roughly the same as (or more than) a larger settlement amount minus legal fees.

Hiring legal counsel can also slow procedures by years. Many workers are more concerned with a speedy resolution than a slightly larger settlement and would happily rather accept $10,000 today than $12,000 in two or three years’ time.

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Painful conditions caused by your injury may not be compensable


All injuries leave a mark in some ways, but some workplace injuries result in painful conditions experienced during normal working hours and conditions. In some states such as Illinois, new York and California, these may be subject to their own compensation but in the rest of the US this is not the case. Yep, that’s right, workers comp statutes vary quite a bit from state to state, but in most cases there needs to be a tangible connection between the injury and the employment in order to award compensation. Unfortunately, pain is a difficult thing to quantify legally and as such feeling pain while at work or in the carrying out of your normal duties does not automatically entitle one to workers comp.


You may be able to choose the jurisdiction in which your claim is processed


Let’s say that you live, work and carry out most of your professional duties in Delaware, but your job requires you to travel to New York state. If you’re injured while in New York, does New York have jurisdiction over the claim, or your home state of Delaware? Well, in most cases this is at the discretion of the employee. You could choose to file the claim in New York, Delaware or both.


Your employer does not need to have workers comp insurance


As astonishing as it may seem, some employers actually tell their employees that they are not able to claim workers comp on the grounds of the employer not having workers compensation insurance. Whether they have insurance or not, employers are required to honor all claims for workers compensation. Indeed, in most states it is a requirement that employers have this insurance, although some larger employers are often able to self-insure. Employers making this claim should be treated warily as they may have already made some claims on their workers comp policy and this has resulted in them having to pay a higher premium (workers comp insurance is very much like auto insurance in this respect).  


The vast majority of workers comp claims are genuine


Workers comp claims have an unfortunate reputation. There’s an unspoken (and utterly unproven) consensus that the majority of workers comp claims are fraudulent. This unfortunate stereotype may discourage employees from making claims despite having very solid grounds for a settlement. In fact, a recent study by the University of Michigan has concluded that in truth over 98% of compensation claims filed in the US are genuine.  


In fact, employers can face serious penalties for failing to provide the legally required compensatory awards due a claimant unless they can provide genuine evidence of a suspicion that the claim may be false. There is, fortunately, very little incentive for employers to indulge in this behavior. Employers who repeatedly throw out perfectly valid claims can gain an unfavorable reputation among judges and arbiters. As such, a ‘trust but verify’ culture pervades among most employers meaning that employees can submit a claim in the event of injury and know that it will be taken seriously.