Workers' compensation is a benefit system designed to help workers who have become injured or sick due to their work conditions or environment. A worker who becomes sick or injured as a result of their working environment and is approved for workers' comp benefits can generally expect to receive the following:
- Payment for medical treatment and expenses. This includes initial emergency care, followup treatment with doctors, physical rehabilitation visits, and transportation expenses).
- Payment for time off work for recovery. Typically this is a weekly benefit of 66.67% of a worker's average weekly earnings and doesn't last more than two years.
- Payment for any permanent impairment. Many work-related injuries result in a permanent physical impairment that affects the worker's ability to do certain jobs. Even a minor injury can qualify for a small permanent disability payment.
- Vocational rehabilitation services. If the worker needs to change jobs or fields, most states pay for some job retraining or re-education.
- Payment of benefits in the event of death. A deceased workers' dependents are entitled to burial expenses and a lump-sum payment in most states.
Unfortunately, workers' compensation is a system whose outcomes can be unfair to sick and injured workers, especially in certain states. Some employers discourage workers from making claims for workers' compensation benefits, and many employers' insurance companies deny worker's comp claims as a matter of course. It can be difficult to get the benefits you deserve: the insurance company may deny medical treatment (forcing you to pay out of pocket for doctor or emergency room visits). Or your employer-paid worker's comp doctor may refuse to give you an off-work order (denying you time off to recover while being paid temporary disability benefits) or admit that you should have work-related limitations (subjecting you to further injury or pain). Or your state's workers' comp rating system may deny that you have any permanent impairment resulting from your injury (denying you permanent disability benefits and cutting off future medical treatment).
Because the system is complicated, to be properly compensated for a workers' comp claim, a seriously injured worker should learn about the workers' compensation system in their state and should consider getting a workers' compensation attorney or lawyer to handle their claim.