Workers’ Compensation laws are designed to ensure that employees who are injured or disabled on the job are provided with fixed monetary awards, eliminating the need for litigation. These laws also provide benefits for dependents of those workers who are killed because of work-related accidents or illnesses. Some laws also protect employers and fellow workers by limiting the amount an injured employee can recover from an employer and by eliminating the liability of co-workers in most accidents. State Workers Compensation statutes establish this framework for most employment. Federal statutes are limited to federal employees or those workers employed in some significant aspect of interstate commerce.
The Federal Employment Compensation Act provides workers’ compensation for non-military, federal employees. Many of its provisions are typical of most worker compensation laws. Awards are limited to “disability or death” sustained while in the performance of the employee’s duties but not caused willfully by the employee or by intoxication. The act covers medical expenses due to the disability and may require the employee to undergo job retraining. A disabled employee receives two thirds of his or her normal monthly salary during the disability and may receive more for permanent physical injuries, or if he or she has dependents. The act provides compensation for survivors of employees who are killed.
While most injured workers recover quickly, and beyond making the initial injury report to qualify for benefits have no real awareness of the Workers’ Compensation system, those more seriously injured may have difficulty with their employer or with the compensation system. Those workers may benefit from consulting with experienced Workers’ Compensation attorneys in their state. Workers’ Compensation litigation is generally considered to be simpler than traditional injury litigation, as it takes place in an administrative setting and may involve relaxed evidentiary rules.
Why Hire an Attorney?
Workers typically need to hire a workers’ comp lawyer when they are refused benefits to which they are entitled, are told that they can return to work before they are actually medically able, or are denied extended or permanent disability despite significant disabling injury. If your employer sends you to a doctor who declares that you are able to return to work even though you don’t believe you are yet able, or tries to get you to return to work to a special job created to accommodate your injury, you should consider speaking to a workers’ compensation lawyer right away.
The reason is this: while a typical injured employee does not know the law, a typical employer is very much aware of how the compensation system works and how to terminate an employee’s benefits. An injured worker who returns to work in a specially created position may well find that, two weeks later, the position is eliminated and he is laid off – but is no longer eligible for workers’ comp.
Similarly, many employers utilize doctors who are much more interested in maintaining a good continuing relationship with the employer than with accurately diagnosing the employee – too many declarations of continuing disability will likely cause the employer to send injured employees to a different doctor. A lawyer can help you protect your rights when one of these “hired gun” doctors tries to block you from getting necessary treatment, cut off your benefits, or send you back to work too early.