Workers' compensation is an insurance program which provides benefits for workers who are injured while working for a private or government employer. These benefits include replacement money for lost wages and medical benefits in the case of an injury. The workers' compensation system generally, with a few notable exceptions, works by removing the burden of a lawsuit by employees to receive benefits. In exchange, the system reduces the liability for employers if a worker gets injured, by preventing injured employees from suing. Employers are generally required to subscribe to a workers' compensation insurance program, for the purpose of covering all of their employees. This system is designed to achieve a balance of power between injured workers and their employers.
The workers' compensation system is managed by individual states, and the Federal government, which has its own programs for Federal employees. Workers' compensation replaces older legal systems where workers faced significant difficulties in proving negligence by their employer. While workers could get large monetary judgments in their favor if they won, the problem was that they rarely won. In contrast, under workers' compensation laws, the employer is held strictly liable for workers' injuries in most states. Strict liability dictates that the employer does not need to be at fault in order for the employee to receive compensation, and the employer cannot avail themselves of an attorney to defend themselves. At the same time, under the modern workers' compensation system, the injured employee cannot sue for punitive damages. In addition, most states forbid the termination of a worker's employment in retaliation for filing a workers' compensation claim. Employers pay higher workers' compensation insurance premiums for employees who do more dangerous types of work, or if injuries that occur at their individual workplace are prodigious or highly expensive.
There are exceptions to the rule when it comes to workers' compensation laws. For instance Texas allows employers to opt out of the system altogether, thus exposing them to potentially unlimited liabilities if they are sued by an injured worker. Other states, like California, allow certain employers to self-insure, which means to officially cover their potential workers' compensation liabilities with their own money. Most states defer to private insurance carriers to provide workers' compensation insurance, while a minority of states have their own government-managed funds. Government-managed funds primarily serve to provide last-resort coverage for types of work that private companies won't cover. This typically pertains to highly dangerous occupations such as roofing and farm work. It is also possible in some cases for workers' compensation insurance providers to deny a workers' compensation claim. In this case it will be necessary for the injured employee to seek legal representation through an attorney that specializes in workers' compensation.
The system of workers' compensation is beneficial for both workers and employers alike. In a given year over four million injuries occur at the workplace, which means employers are spared the cost of defending themselves from roughly that many potential lawsuits and paying out potentially ruinous legal judgments. In addition, the cost of insurance serves as an incentive to employers to maintain a safe workplace. In turn, injured employees can receive benefits without having to go to court, even if the employer goes out of business.
To learn more about workers' Compensation, please read the following links.
Worker's Compensation & Work Safety
- Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis: Workers Memorial Day - A speech by Secretary of Labor Hilda L. Solis commemorating Workers' Memorial Day on April 26 of 2012.
- California Department of Personnel Administration: Workers Compensation Program - The workers compensation program website for the state of California. Information about the workers' compensation claim process and other publications can be found here.
- U.S. Department of the Interior Workers' Compensation Program - The Department of the Interior maintains its own workers' compensation website. Here visitors can find information about safety initiatives as well as statistics.
- State of Wisconsin: DWD: Worker's Compensation - Wisconsin's workers' compensation website. Workers, medical providers, insurer, and employers alike, can find information at this state information portal.
- Tennessee Department of Treasury Workers' Compensation Program - Government workers in Tennessee can find information about what happens when a workplace accident occurs at this website.
- Kentucky Personnel Cabinet: Workers' Compensation Program - The State of Kentucky's workers' compensation program information portal. Visitors can find information about safety issues and return to work programs at this site.
- South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation Workers' Compensation - South Dakota's workers' compensation website. Contains employee's guides, plus information on case decisions, fraud, statutes, rules, and fees.
- New York State Workers' Compensation Board - New York state's workers' compensation portal. Visitors here can find information about workers' compensation insurance providers, while workers can find out about how to file claims.
- State of Georgia State Board of Workers' Compensation - Georgia's workers' compensation website. Contains information on how to verify a company's workers' compensation coverage, employee handbooks, employer education resources, and related state laws.
- CDC Workplace Safety and Health - The Centers for Disease Control's information resource for workers' compensation. This portal contains information about hazardous asbestos, chemicals, and other issues related to hazardous materials and workplace safety.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration - The OSHA portal which represents the nationwide workers' compensation program. Contains news, training, publications and enforcement information.
- National Safety Council: Safety at Work - A workplace safety resource managed by the National Safety Council. Visitors can find information about emergency preparedness, consulting, and training.
- National Crime Prevention Council: Tips for Staying Safe at Work - A website about workplace crime prevention. Contains tips on disaster preparedness, preventing workplace violence and bullying, as well as other workplace safety issues.
- Healthfinder.gov: Stay Safe at Work - A United States government resource for people looking to take charge of their own health. Includes advice on exercises, lifting techniques and stress management techniques that workers can learn which can lower their chances of injury.
- Workplace Safety Tips - The city of Washington, DC's safety tips website. Features information about employee safety tips, how to deal with suspicious packages, and handling workplace violence.
- Work Safety Tips - The City of Decatur, Illinois' workplace safety website. Visitors can find advice on using filing cabinets and electrical equipment, as well as fire safety tips, lifting techniques and tips on how to use ladders.
- Safety Works! Create a Safe and Healthy Workplace - The State of Maine's workplace safety resource. This website offers tips as well as information about regulations and expert advice.
- Texas Department of Insurance: Workers' Compensation - Driving Safety - The government of Texas' transportation safety information resource.
- Five Minutes for Safety - Washington State's workplace safety tips web page. Offers advice on proper workplace postures, hazards awareness, safety tips for using propane, and electrical safety.
By: Daniel Watson