10 May Top 3 Workers Compensation Questions
The Law Offices of Jeffrey M. Bloom handles workers compensation claims for people living in Bergen County, Hudson County, and greater New Jersey. Here are a few questions we hear from people who’ve been injured at work and need advice from a skilled Workers Compensation Attorney.
Just what is workers’ compensation?
Every state has passed workers’ compensation laws that provide benefits to employees injured at work. These laws have a variety of names, such as workers’ compensation, workman’s compensation, worker’s compensation, or work comp. These laws require that employees suffering on-the-job injuries receive compensation to replace lost wages and cover medical expenses. Most state laws provide that employers must either carry insurance through a private carrier or show that they can self-insure against claims by workers injured on the job. Other states provide that employers must pay into a state workers’ compensation fund.
Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system. No matter what caused the injury—worker’s negligence, employer’s negligence, or a combination of the two—workers injured on the job receive benefits under the law.
For the most part, states, rather than the federal government, regulate workers’ compensation. However, some workers, such as maritime and railroad workers, are covered by federal, rather than state law. Because of its interstate nature and because of the upsurge in claims in the late 1960s and early 1970s arising from black lung disease, the United States Congress passed legislation providing for compensation to coal field workers suffering from the disease. The Federal Employees’ Compensation Act (FECA) covers on-the-job injuries sustained by federal employees.
What does “arising out of employment” mean?
Generally, any injury occurring at work which is due to a traumatic incident, such as falling from a ladder, or that is due to cumulative factors, like injuries caused by repetitive motions, would be considered as arising out of employment. Illnesses created by the work environment, like medical conditions caused by exposure to chemicals, are also compensable. In general, any injury or illness that requires the worker to see a doctor or that results in disability or death qualifies for workers’ compensation benefits. A doctor must be able to verify that there is objective medical evidence showing that an injury or disease exists and that work exposure was the major cause.
Even injuries resulting from recreational and social activities are compensable if such recreational or social activities are an expressly required incident of employment, such as a company golf tournament, holiday party, or picnic and they produce a substantial direct benefit to the employer.
Generally, however, those injuries suffered while going to or coming from work are not considered to be arising out of and in the course of employment, even if the employer provides transportation, unless the employee is engaged in a special errand or mission for the employer. Finally, if an employee becomes an inmate of a public institution, states may deny benefit payments, except possibly to the employee’s dependents.
And what if the injury was the employer’s fault?
One of the original rationales for the establishment of workers’ compensation laws was to protect employers from the drastic effects of failing to provide safe work environments. Prior to the passage of such laws, employees who were injured due to their employers’ negligence sued the employers under traditional negligence or personal injury law. Under that system, if the employer was found negligent, the employee could recover not only medical expenses and lost wages, but also such damages as pain and suffering. The parties had a right to a jury trial and the awards in particularly egregious cases could be quite high against the employer. As the industrial revolution created larger and larger workplaces and the possibility of many more worker injuries, employers often became embattled defending against multiple workers’ personal injury claims.
Thus, workers’ compensation systems, which are generally considered no fault, were instituted, giving employees a trade-off of guaranteed and purportedly quicker, establishment of benefits, without concern for their own contributory negligence. The employers, on the other hand, gained immensely in that they no longer had to defend against numerous lawsuits since they were granted virtual immunity from lawsuits for their negligence. A determination as to whether the employer’s or the employee’s negligent behavior caused the problem is irrelevant. Some, who find workers’ compensation an uneven trade-off between employer and employee, argue that, under most state workers’ compensation systems, employers often do not have to worry about the cost of possible consequential injuries, even in cases where they are more than merely negligent. However, under certain circumstances in most states, there are injuries for which the employee may either sue the employer or a third party, as in the case of injuries resulting from faulty or defective equipment.
Contact West New York Workers’ Comp Attorney | Jeffrey M. Bloom
If you have questions about workers’ compensation law or feel that you’ve been injured at work and need assistance, please contact our legal team at (855) 208-3650 today.