Lesson 26: Workers’ Compensation

From the Land Mines in Accident Cases section of How You Can Avoid Legal Land Mines by Joseph S. Lyles (2003).

If an employee is injured while working, then under most circumstances he or she is entitled to compensation in one or more of three ways:

  1. Medical Treatment
  2. Wage replacement and/or
  3. Monetary award for permanent injury.

However, there are limitations to all of these benefits. For example, your employer has the right to control and direct your medical treatment. Therefore, you may be directed to go to the company doctor. Some smaller companies do not have specific company doctors and will allow you to choose your own.

Wage replacement varies from state to state, but it essentially consists of a percentage of your wage that is paid to you once you have been unable to work for a period of time due to your injury.

The monetary award you are entitled to for your permanent injury, if you have one, is based on the number a doctor assigns as your permanent impairment rating. The higher your wage rate and the higher your impairment rating, the higher the amount of money you should be awarded. An attorney can help ensure you are properly compensated.

However, under a workers’ compensation law, you may not obtain damages for pain and suffering or punitive damages from your employer for an on-the-job injury. You may, though, still have a third-party claim against someone who wrongfully injured you. For example, the manufacturer of a defective machine that injures you on the job may be held liable to you in a civil action for actual and punitive damages. You will need an attorney to pursue this type of claim. Also, be aware that there are special time limits for filing for workers’ compensation. Always report an injury to your supervisor as soon as possible.

The Lesson: Know what benefits you are entitled to when you are injured at work. Also, inform your supervisor immediately if you are injured on the job.