To qualify for workers’ compensation, you must be an employee of a business that has workers’ compensation insurance coverage, and you must have been injured while at work or while performing work-related duties. You may be entitled to compensation for medical treatment and lost income. You may also be entitled to compensation for permanent disability if you are unable to return to your job or if you can only work in a limited capacity.
Employees Have Rights
Full-time and part-time employees qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, while freelancers, independent contractors, and consultants generally do not. A temporary or seasonal worker or a salesperson may be classified as an employee or as an independent contractor. If you fall into one of those categories, your eligibility for compensation may depend on the specifics of your relationship with the company.
Sometimes a worker’s status is not immediately clear. A company may classify a worker as an independent contractor to avoid paying payroll taxes and workers’ compensation insurance premiums, but in practice, the business may treat the worker as an employee.
If the company you work for withholds taxes from your pay, you are most likely an employee. If it does not, you may be an independent contractor. If you are not classified as an employee but you believe that your work arrangement is that of an employee and employer, an attorney may be able to take your case to court to argue that you are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
Your Company’s Workers’ Compensation Coverage
Most, but not all, employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Some states do not require businesses to have coverage if they do not have a minimum number of employees or if their employees perform certain types of work. For example, laws on whether domestic, agricultural, and temporary workers are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits vary from state to state. Some businesses choose to purchase workers’ compensation coverage even if state law does not require them to do so. State and federal governments have their own systems to handle workers’ compensation claims.
Your Work-Related Injury
You may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if you suffered a work-related injury. Workers’ compensation laws are written in ways that allow them to cover a wide range of circumstances. For instance, you may be entitled to benefits if you fell because a floor was slippery or if you suffered injuries using machinery.
You may be eligible for workers’ compensation even if you were not at the workplace at the time of the accident. For example, if you were driving to make a delivery for your employer and were hurt in a motor vehicle accident, you may be entitled to benefits.
Your injuries did not have to occur as the result of a single event. Often, employees who perform tasks such as typing or using machinery for several hours per day over a period of years develop repetitive stress injuries, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Workers who are exposed to toxic fumes and other hazardous substances may develop respiratory problems or cancer years after exposure.
You may be entitled to workers’ compensation even if you did something that caused or contributed to your injuries. For instance, if you used equipment in an improper manner and that led to an injury, you may be eligible for compensation. If you were hurt because you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, because you were behaving in a reckless or careless way, or because you committed an act of violence, you may not be entitled to compensation.
Sometimes injuries that occur on the job fall into a gray area. For instance, if you fell on your lunch break or at a social event hosted by the company, the specifics of the case, state laws, and court decisions may determine your eligibility for benefits.
How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Each state has rules on when and how to notify an employer of an injury and a process to seek compensation. The U.S. Department of Labor provides information on how to contact each state’s workers’ compensation officials.
When reporting an injury, you should include information on what happened, conditions at the time that contributed to the accident, and any witnesses who were present. If you fail to meet a deadline, you may not be entitled to benefits, even if you meet the other criteria.
Your employer may require you to undergo an independent medical examination. The insurance company may also want a doctor of their choosing to evaluate your injuries.
Seek Legal Help with Your Claim
Workers’ compensation cases are not always straightforward. Your employment status and when and how your injuries occurred may influence your eligibility for benefits. The workers’ compensation process may be complex and may take a long time to resolve. This is especially true if the company argues that you were not an employee or that your injury was not work related and that you are therefore not entitled to compensation.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC may be able to help you obtain workers’ compensation benefits. We can discuss your state’s laws, explain your rights, and guide you through the process of filing a claim. Call our office today at (800) 603-4224 to speak with a member of our staff.