What is Workers’ Comp?
Workers’ comp, short for workers’ compensation, is a system of workplace insurance coverage that protects workers who suffer injuries or illnesses because of their jobs. Every state, as well as the federal government, has its own workers’ compensation system, though all of them operate in essentially the same way. If you sustain an injury while on the job or are injured or become ill because of your work, you can file a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ compensation programs operate under a “no-fault” principle. This means that workers can receive compensation for their on-the-job injuries regardless of who or what caused those injuries. It isn’t necessary, for example, for someone who suffers an on-the-job injury to prove or show that someone else caused the injury, or that it resulted from the employer’s negligence.
Workers’ compensation doesn’t apply in every situation where someone suffers an injury while on the job. Even though state rules differ significantly about who is covered under workers’ compensation programs, it doesn’t cover every worker in the state. For example, many seasonal workers, contract or freelance workers, and domestic workers are not covered under state workers’ compensation laws.
Additionally, not every employer in the state is required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. For example, while most states require that every company with at least one full or part-time employee must carry workers’ compensation insurance, other states say that such coverage doesn’t apply unless the company has at least three workers, or the total sum of the salaries the company pays its employees exceeds a specific amount.
On-The-Job or Job-Related?
A lot of people talk about workers’ compensation as applying to “on-the-job” injuries. This term is a little inaccurate. Workers’ compensation coverage applies to any illness or injury that is job-related. This means that you don’t have to suffer your illness or injury at your place of employment in order for workers’ compensation to apply.
For example, let’s say you work as a software developer and spend almost all of your time in your company’s office. However, once or twice a year you have to take a business trip to attend a software development conference. If you suffer an injury while traveling, this is usually covered by workers’ compensation.
Even if you work for an employer who has workers’ compensation insurance and you suffer a job-related injury or illness, you might still be able to file a lawsuit. When an employee suffers an injury because the employer was reckless or intentionally caused the injury, the worker can typically take the employer to court. In addition to suing for medical damages and lost wages, these lawsuits also involve the possibility of punitive damages, damages for the pain and suffering the worker suffered, as well as any mental anguish associated with the injury.
Of course, determining whether workers’ compensation is right for you or whether you can file a lawsuit against your employer is not something most people can do on their own. You should talk to a personal injury or workers’ compensation attorney for advice if you’ve suffered an injury while on the job.