Workers compensation insurance provides the monies to compensate a worker who is injured performing a job-related task. Medical bills and time lost from work will be reimbursed to the injured employee. But this reimbursement comes at a trade-off. Yes the injured person is assured of getting compensated—but it is limited. And they also give up their right to sue their employer for negligence. It’s sort of like workers and employers striking a bargain. The workers will receive some monies, but they can’t try to sue for more.
You may think that an injured worker would need to prove negligence on the part of the employer in order to collect workers compensation benefits. But this is not the case. The bottom line is if you are hurt at work, you’re covered. This insurance was designed specifically to make sure that no injured worker would go unpaid, and be left struggling with no wages coming in, unable to pay medical bills. The compensation insurance that employers purchase covers every single employee.
As long as the injury arose from performing work-related duties, the insurance kicks in and the claim is filed. Negligence on the part of the employer may or may not have been present. Sometimes, accidents really do “just happen” – without specific cause, or anyone’s liability. Workers compensation benefits guarantee that lost wages and medical bills are paid. But what about pain and suffering? What if you are permanently disfigured by a preventable accident? What if the employer was indeed negligent? Well, now we refer back to that trade-off we spoke of earlier.
For example, maybe a worker loses a finger using a piece of equipment that used to have a safety guard. But the employer removed the safety guard because it slowed down production, or because a manager simply felt the guard was unnecessary. This worker is missing a finger for the rest of his life. So you would think he could pursue additional damages and a higher level of compensation. But the reality of workers compensation coverage is that it is the only recourse for an injured worker. So every injured worker gets compensated–but no injured worker gets compensated above and beyond what the coverage allows. Some people argue that this creates an unfair system. Others say it’s the only way to go. Regardless, just imagine the sheer volume of lawsuits if workers compensation was not in place.
It is not a perfect system, but it has worked well to help injured employees over the approximately 85 years that it has been in place.
There is one exception to the limitations of workers compensation insurance. And that is something called intentional tort. We will explain this in the next article.
Of course any worker who is concerned about claiming their workers compensation benefits can always speak to an attorney who handles this area. Workers compensation laws can be a confusing, depending on what state you live and work in.