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Understanding How Worker's Compensation Works

Understanding How Worker's Compensation Works


Understanding How Worker's Compensation Works

by Bill Cole

There once was a time when a worker who was injured on the job had little recourse. Not only was he physically injured, he lost income and had medical bills to pay. Sometimes the injury left a worker disabled and unable to provide for his family. The worker had few options other than to sue the employer for compensation. More often than not, the workers lost. This is what led to the establishment of Worker's Compensation.

Worker's compensation refers to a state-run insurance program that protects the majority of workers in case of an on-the-job injury or an illness that results from working conditions. Exempted from this coverage are agricultural workers including farm owners and crop harvesters; domestic employees such as maids, housekeepers, butlers and the like; independent contractors of any sort; and employees of small businesses with five or fewer workers.

Worker's compensation is one of the oldest employee protections in the United States, having started around 1910. There are now 55 such programs across the nation, most of which are run by state governments. Most worker's compensation laws require employers to carry this type of insurance, although businesses owners themselves aren't covered by this program and must get their own coverage.

While each program varies in some details, all are set up to provide monetary benefits to a worker whose injury or illness resulted from a job-related accident or from the conditions of employment. Examples of this could be someone who breaks a bone in a fall, some who loses hearing as the result of working in a noisy environment, or someone who suffers repetitive stress injury from excessive typing.

' They protect employers from costly liability lawsuits over worker injuries, and they protect workers from having benefits cut if they are injured or become ill because of some action of their part.

A worker who's injured on the job should first file a claim form, available from the employer. Next the worker can expect to undergo an independent medical examination by a physician chosen by the employer's insurance company. It's important for the employee to pay close attention to the doctor's diagnosis, to ask questions and to make notes of the examination afterward.

Any worker who suspects that his or her employer, or the employer's insurance company, may challenge a worker's compensation claim should consult with an attorney specializing in worker's compensation law. The lawyer can help the worker obtain all the benefits to which he or she is due under the law.

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