Monday, July 22, 2013

Workers' Compensation


Every day in the United States thousands of employees are injured in work related accidents. Most injuries are minor cuts or scrapes but a large percentage can lead to significant disfiguring, paralysis, or even death. In 2011, an average of almost 13 people died everyday in work related accidents according to OSHA. When injuries do happen it can be very stressful for both the employee and their family.  The last thing anyone wants to do is research what programs are available to provide for yourself and your family in times of crisis. It is best to have a basic knowledge of what options you and your family have before the unthinkable happens.

Workers' compensation is a combination of health, disability, and life insurance that employers are required to provide for their employees. Employers pay premiums for this insurance and cannot require the employee to contribute to the cost of the expense. It does not matter who is at fault in a claim, whether it is the claimant, a coworker, or the employer. The amount of compensation received will not decrease if the claimant was at fault. The insurance provides coverage to the employee and in exchange the employee gives up their right to sue the employer for negligence. That is unless the employer is in violation of OSHA laws or fails to fix a known hazard. A worker will lose their right to compensation if it is determined the injury was a result of intoxication from drugs or alcohol, or if they had intent to injure themselves or someone else. Damages related to pain and suffering or punitive damages related to employer negligence is generally not available through workers' comp.

Workers' compensation has been available in multiple forms since early 1900 across most of the US. It was first passed in Maryland in 1902, based on successful implementations in Europe where it was designed to reduce the need for litigation and take the burden off the employee to prove the employer was at fault.  

Each state is allowed to structure its program in the best way it sees fit. Some states, such as North Dakota and Ohio, have state run monopolies while other states have a hybrid of public and private coverage options. States like West Virginia and Nevada have completely privatized their system after their programs became significantly underfunded. Because programs are run on state by state basis, it is best to check with your local authority to get answers on any questions you may have.

Fraud is rampant in this industry by both employers and employees costing billions of dollars every year in false claims and unpaid premiums. Employees will often fake injuries or get hurt outside of work but claim they were on the job to take advantage of the benefits. For this reason, employers may fight an employee’s claim for compensation payments. It is in the employer’s best interest to have fewer claims or they risk an increase in their premiums. In the event of a contested case or serious injury, a lawyer that specializes in worker’s compensation claims should be consulted. Most states limit a claimant’s legal expenses to a maximum percentage of the reward. Employers also commit fraud by underreporting what their employee’s earn and claiming to have more experienced workers to give the impression of less risk and to lower their premiums.

Contact your state officials for more detailed information on your local workers' compensation laws. Your state’s website can be a great resource for local laws and contact information. Work safe and always take appropriate preventative measures such as applying warning labels or using tools like a Lift’n Buddy to ensure you are never involved in a workers' compensation claim.

Thank you for your time and attention. Let’s make it safe this Monday

Brad Lindemann
Sales Coordinator, Lift’n Buddy, a Southworth Company