We spend a great deal of time at work. Therefore, it is reasonable to expect that our working environment will be safe and that we will be able to perform our duties without damage to our health. Unfortunately, workplace injuries do occur. When they do, it can be hard for employees to find clear information on how to protect their rights and receive the compensation that they deserve.
The Right to Work in a Safe Environment
When one person enters another person’s property, the latter has a legal duty of care to the former, even if the two people do not interact or come into a formal contract. Duty of care is a concept based on harm prevention, where a reasonable person is expected to undertake every possible measure to avoid causing harm to another person.
In the workplace, businesses and employers are legally responsible under their duty of care to ensure that their employees have a safe working environment. Although every workplace is different, all employers need to foresee problematic issues and take the appropriate steps to protect their employees and mitigate the unnecessary risk of harm.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a federal agency under the United States Department of Labor. Part of its job is to develop and enforce nationwide workplace health and safety standards. The OSHA operates according to the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 (OSH Act) which requires employers to adhere to all OSHA standards.
A significant stipulation of the OSH Act is that employers reduce or eliminate workplace hazards by making tangible changes instead of relying on stopgap solutions such as personal protective equipment. For example, if a workplace is constantly exposed to dangerous fumes, the company needs to switch to less toxic chemicals or improve ventilation systems instead of merely providing their employees with respirators.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
Workers’ compensation is a program instituted by the US government. It is designed to provide benefits to workers who get injured or fall sick while they are working or as a result of their job. Under the workers’ compensation program, workers receive cash or healthcare benefits when they get injured or fall ill because of their job.
Unfortunately, while OSHA is adopted uniformly across the nation, workers’ compensation is governed at the state level. Thus, these laws vary widely from one state to another. In addition, many states have outdated workers’ compensation laws that predate the OSH act. This means that the amount of coverage you receive in the event of a workplace injury can differ greatly depending on the state that you are in.
Texas is the only state in the country where employers do not have to maintain workers’ compensation insurance. In other states, small businesses are exempt from purchasing workers’ compensation coverage. Certain types of employees such as real estate agents, musicians, or farm laborers may be excluded from workers’ compensation coverage as well.
Workers’ compensation insurance is mostly provided by private insurers. Individual businesses pay a premium to these insurers for coverage. Some states have state-run workers’ compensation programs or public-funded insurance pools. Additionally, each state has a Workers’ Compensation Board or Commission that oversees the workers’ compensation program.
When an injured or ill employee files a workers’ compensation claim against their employer, they will receive a sum of money that is intended to make up for their loss of income and their medical expenses. In return, the employee waives the right to pursue further legal recourse against their employer. While this is meant to benefit and protect both parties, employees can find themselves at a disadvantage.
Regardless of whether you’re in a high-risk job as an ice road trucker or oil derrick worker, or are involved in a more day-to-day work accident at Amazon, you owe it to yourself to become familiar with the requirements, standards, and common issues that arise in workers’ compensation cases.
Workers’ Compensation Issues
It can be exceedingly difficult to pursue a workers’ compensation claim. More often than not, this is due to weak communication between the employee and the employer in the early days of the injury or illness. In some states, workers must submit a written report about their injury or illness to their employer within the first thirty days.
Failing to obtain the appropriate medical documentation is another issue that is faced by employees who seek compensation. Some employees try to save on medical costs by attempting to recover through home rest. However, compensation claims must be supported by official medical evaluations that document your symptoms and injuries and outline a treatment plan. This way, employees can make compensation claims that cover the future costs of treatment.
Dealing with insurance companies can be another nightmare. Insurance companies will often require claimants to allow them access to your medical records. After receiving your authorization, they could retrieve your past medical history and use it to deny that your current condition was caused by the workplace.
A workplace back injury is particularly tricky to prove. Claim administrators are adverse to back injury claims due to the potential lifetime cost of medical treatment. Sometimes, insurance companies will assert that your injury is a result of a pre-existing condition. In certain states, repetitive motion injuries are not covered under workers’ compensation, thus insurance attorneys will allege that your injuries are from cumulative trauma and not a singular incident.
How to Get Fair Compensation
Because insurance companies and third-party claim administrators try their best to pay out minimal sums, employees seeking to claim compensation can find themselves overwhelmed and pushed to accept a lower amount than they deserve. To navigate the complex claim process, injured employees should engage an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
Having an attorney on your side who has handled numerous work injury and compensation cases means that you will have helpful advice at every stage of your claim. Your attorney can also protect your privacy and ensure that insurance companies do not obtain more than the necessary medical records to administer your claim.
In some cases employees who receive a workers’ compensation settlement are required to voluntarily resign. If you are in a similar circumstance, your attorney can help you to find out if you are eligible for any employment law claims and negotiate for a higher pay-out at the same time.
The workers’ compensation process is meant to protect employees who get injured or fall ill at work. Unfortunately, the complex claim process can lead to thousands of less informed workers having to shoulder their loss of livelihood and medical bills on their own. If you have been injured on the job, seek immediate help from a workers’ compensation lawyer to get the just benefits that you deserve.