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Employers are required to provide a healthy, safe workplace for their employees. When workers are injured on the job, employers must help them recover from their injuries; compensate them for lost wages if they are unable to work; and take steps to correct the situation that caused the injury. An on-the job or workplace injury is one that “arises out of and in the course of employment” and includes accidents, exposure to toxic substances and repetitive motion conditions. A workplace injury may involve a pre-existing medical condition that is made worse by work conditions, as well as stress-related conditions, both physical and psychological.
Workers' Compensation and Qualifying Injuries
Each of the 50 states requires that employers have some form of workers compensation plan to help employees with work-related injuries. It may be a self-administered plan or the business may purchase workers’ compensation insurance. Worker’s compensation is a no-fault system in which injured workers waive their rights to sue the employer in exchange for medical care and wage replacement.
Workers’ compensation covers most workplace injuries except self-inflicted injuries; those received while engaged in “horse play” in the workplace; traveling to and from work; or running personal errands on break time. Injuries resulting from employee intoxication or illegal drug use are not covered by workers’ compensation.
Injured Workers' Rights Protection
Employees injured on the job should file a workers’ compensation claim. This protects their legal rights. If they do not file a claim and are unable or find it difficult to do their work, the employer may terminate their employment for failure to perform and the workers have no proof of injury for legal action.
Some employers may ask injured employees to use their employer-sponsored health insurance for medical care for a work-related injury or offer to pay injured employees’ regular wages in exchange for not filing a workers’ compensation claim. This is illegal and denies injured workers their legal rights and protection under workers’ compensation law. In addition, employers cannot fire or retaliate against workers for filing a workers’ compensation claim.
Medical Care for Work-Related Injuries
Injured employees are entitled to medical care for their injuries. An employee may be required to see a doctor identified by the workers’ compensation plan. In some situations, injured employees may be allowed to select from a list of approved doctors
Wage Replacement for Injured Workers
If employees are unable to work due to on-the-job injuries, they are entitled to a portion of their regular wages. In most states, this is two-thirds of their salary or hourly wage. Permanently disabled workers are entitled to a settlement to make up for lost future earnings. This settlement may be regular monthly payments or a lump sum.
Right to Legal Advice
Even though worker’s compensation is a no-fault program, injured workers still have the right to hire an attorney to help protect their rights. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can ensure that all claims requirements and deadlines are met; all medical bills are paid by the workers’ compensation plan; and the worker receives appropriate compensation. In addition, an injured worked may sue for negligence if the injury was caused by defective or improperly maintained equipment; a sub-contractor was involved in the accident; or the employer failed to protect workers when using toxic substances.
Diane Chinn is a freelance writer with more than 15 years experience in many areas, including business and technical communications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in psychology from California State University and a Master of Arts in human resources and industrial relations from the University of Minnesota. She is a Six Sigma Green Belt .