Worker's Compensation

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Worker’s Compensation

Worker’s Compensation programs and laws exist to protect employees who are injured while on the job. These laws are usually a feature of highly developed industrial societies. Workers’ compensation laws are often only implemented after long and hard fought struggles by labor unions. There are often benefits available to dependents of workers killed on the job.


Prior to Statutory Law, employees who were injured on the job were only able to pursue their employer through civil or torts law. In some countries like the United Kingdom this was difficult due to the legal view of employment as a master-servant relationship. Proof of employer malice or negligence was usually required, a difficult thing for an employee to prove. While employer liability was unlimited, courts usually awarded in favor of the employer, and did not take into account the full losses experienced by workers: medical costs, lost wages, and damages for loss of future earning capacity.


Workers’ Compensation Laws were enacted to mitigate litigation expenses for both sides and to eliminate the need for injured workers to prove their injuries were the employer’s “fault.” The first US law was passed in Maryland in 1902. In the next twenty years, many states followed. This system was formerly known as workman’s compensation.


In the United States most employees who are injured on the job have an absolute right to medical care for that injury, and in many cases monetary payments to compensate for resulting temporary or permanent disabilities.


Most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, and in most states there are heavy financial penalties for an employer’s not having insurance. In many states there are public uninsured employer funds to pay benefits to workers employed by companies who illegally fail to purchase insurance. Insurance policies are available to employers through commercial insurance companies: if the employer is deemed an excessive risk to insure at market rates, it can obtain coverage through an assigned-risk program.

It is illegal in some states (although not in others) for an employer to fire an employee for reporting a workplace injury or for filing a workers’ compensation claim; it is illegal in most states to not hire someone for having filed a workers’ compensation claim in the past. However, employers can consult commercial databases of claims data and it would seem nearly impossible to prove that an employer discriminated against a job applicant because of his or her workers’ compensation claims history. To ameliorate against discrimination of this type, some states have created a “subsequent injury trust fund” which will reimburse insurers for benefits paid to workers who suffer aggravation or recurrence of a compensatable injury.


It is also illegal to falsely claim workers’ compensation benefits. Some employers hire private investigators to surreptitiously videotape claimants; some of these sub rosa videos have shown employees, who claimed to be disabled, engaging in sports or other strenuous physical activity. TV shows have recently been made using these videos.


Some employers vigorously contest employee claims for workers’ compensation payments; in any contested case, or in any case involving serious injury, an attorney with specific experience in handling workers’ compensation claims on behalf of injured workers should be consulted. Many if not most state laws provide that a claimant’s attorney fees are limited to a certain percentage of an award, and may be paid only from a successful recovery or award.


Worker’s Compensation | Labor Law | Work Related Injury