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Injuries Covered by Workers’ Compensation
Being hurt on the job can be a scary situation. That’s why understanding your rights as an employee, and what kind of injuries are covered by workers’ compensation, is the first step to ensuring your accident or injury will be handled appropriately.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is the process by which you may receive compensation or medical bills paid as the result of a work-related accident or injury. Workers’ compensation will sometimes cover vocational rehabilitation if you need help getting back to work. Typically, if you are doing something for the benefit of your employer, and you become ill or are in an accident as a result of it, then your illness or injury is considered work-related, and you could receive workers’ compensation benefits.
Based on state laws, most employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover you if you are injured or become ill due to your work. Filing a workers’ compensation claim for an accident or injury doesn’t mean a lawsuit against your employer; it is simply a request for benefits from your employer’s insurance carrier. It is still wise to consult an attorney early in the process to protect yourself and ensure you are not giving up any benefits you are due through the workers’ compensation process.
Is it a Work-Related Injury?
A work-related injury is one that happens while you are doing something on behalf of your employer or in the course of your employment. Most work-related injuries occur in the workplace, though accidents or injuries that occur in the company-owned vehicle, or an offsite location the employee is working at on behalf of the employer, are also covered. This includes social events sponsored by the company, such as a company party, that may not necessarily have happened on company-owned property.
An injury occurring during non-working hours may also be considered workers’ compensation if the injury takes place on the employer’s property. For example, if an employee is on a lunch break and an injury takes place in the company’s cafeteria, it is considered a work-related injury. Or, for example, if an employee is having lunch with a client at a restaurant and is injured, it will also be covered.
There are circumstances when a pre-existing condition may be covered under workers’ compensation as well. If an employee had a pre-existing back condition and it is exasperated due to their work for the employer, it may be covered. Emotional or mental injuries due to work stress could also be considered a work-related injury covered under workers’ compensation.
Types of Injuries Covered
Workplace injuries can take a variety of different forms, and serious injuries can mean that an employee may experience lasting pain and damage. The types of injuries covered under workers’ compensation are those that can be connected to work requirements or conditions.
Some examples of typical injuries may include:
- Fractures, cuts, or lacerations.
- Severed limbs or finger loss: Limb amputation or crushed limbs often cause a partial permanent disability.
- Burns: Could result from fires, explosions, or chemical spills in work environments
- Broken bones: Dislocated bones and joints
- Muscle and tendon sprains: Include strains and tears caused by overexertion, torn ACL/MCL, rotator cuff injuries, and sprained wrists, ankles, or knees; this is the most common type of workplace injury.
- Heat and chemical burns: Also including electrocution
- Neck and back injuries: Includes herniated discs, broken vertebrae, spinal cord injuries, and whiplash; whiplash can lead to neck pain, headaches, dizziness, blurred vision, or fatigue.
- Concussion: Typically suffered due to a blow to the head. The effects of a concussion are usually temporary, however, re-injuring yourself while recovering from a concussion can increase your chances of lasting damage.
- Traumatic brain injuries: Typically caused by falls or being stuck in the head; resulting in an either minor or severe injury to the brain. Serious traumatic brain injuries may require lengthy recovery times and significant time spent in therapy. In some cases, brain damage can cause permanent impairment.
- Motor vehicle accidents: Injuries suffered in a motor vehicle accident while on the clock and carrying out company business. If injuries were sustained in an accident during the work commute or running errands, they are typically not covered.
- Respiratory illnesses: Examples include mesothelioma, cancer, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) which are caused by breathing in toxic fumes or exposure to hazardous chemicals. Diagnosis can occur several years after exposure, so immediate reporting of the illness to the employer you worked for at the time of the exposure is important.
- Repetitive motion or injuries due to poor ergonomics: Injuries caused by overuse or misuse over a long period of time, such as tendinitis or carpal tunnel syndrome, may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits if you can prove they are directly linked to a condition at work. Back or neck injuries can be included as well.
- Pre-existing conditions: Pre-existing conditions such as back injuries or other chronic conditions are only covered if they were directly aggravated by an injury on the job or job-related exposure.
Working conditions and work sites are common causes of workplace injuries or occupational diseases. Some typical situations of workplace injuries are construction accidents, work conditions like wet or moldy areas, use of weapons or firearms at work, faulty or malfunctioning machinery, or inhaling chemicals or particles.
Workers’ compensation laws vary from state-to-state. However, they are generally similar in content. Check your state’s laws to determine if a particular injury or illness is compensable under those laws.
Although the majority of work injuries and illnesses are covered by workers’ compensation, there are some injuries that may not be covered in some states. They include:
- Injuries occurring as a result of a crime
- Self-inflicted injuries
- Injuries suffered as the result of a violation of company policies
- Failure to use prescribed safety precautions
- Injuries from intoxication or drug use
- Off-work injuries
- Pre-existing conditions, unless exacerbated by current work
Injuries resulting from “horseplay” or other instances where employees may have disregarded workplace safety rules can sometimes be excluded. State laws, and sometimes even courts within some states, remain divided on this issue.
For More Information
If you feel you have a workers’ compensation claim due to an accident or injury at work, the first thing you’ll want to do is contact a qualified attorney. Working with an attorney familiar with these types of workers’ compensation claims is essential. In best case scenarios, your workers’ compensation claim will be promptly processed, and you will receive the proper compensation for your injury. At times, it’s not always clear whether your injury is work-related, so you may want to speak with an attorney well versed in workers’ compensation claims.