If you were injured at work or got sick because of your job, you could be eligible to collect workers’ compensation benefits, including payments for lost wages and medical bills. If certain eligibility requirements are met, you may receive compensation even if you were at fault. In exchange for this protection, however, you lose your right to sue your employer for damages in most instances.
There are four general eligibility requirements that you must meet in order to receive workers’ comp benefits. Let’s take a closer look.
1. You Must Be an Employee
Just because you work for a company doesn’t mean you are an employee and eligible for workers’ compensation. If you work as an independent contractor, freelancer, consultant or other non-employee position, you probably do not qualify as an employee.
There are exceptions, though. Sometimes business owners misclassify workers as independent contractors when they are actually employees to save on payroll taxes or workers’ compensation premiums. If you think this applies to your situation, you may qualify for benefits. Be prepared to take your case to court, though, to prove that you are employed by the company.
2. Your Employer Must Carry Workers’ Comp Insurance
The vast majority of employers are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance. The exact laws vary from state to state, but in general, a business owner’s responsibility to provide this type of coverage depends on the type of business, how many employees it has and the type of work employees are required to perform. In most states, any company with one employee needs to have workers’ compensation insurance. In others, however, there may need to be two to five employees minimum.
3. Your Illness or Injury Must Be Directly Related to Your Job
If you were injured or became sick while you were doing something for the benefit of your employer, the resulting illness or injury is typically classified as work-related. This includes both acute and chronic illnesses and injuries. If you develop carpal tunnel syndrome after spending several years typing all day for your job, it’s a work-related injury. If you develop mesothelioma due to asbestos exposure, it’s a work-related illness. If you slip and fall on the job and injure your back, it is a work-related injury.
There are some situations in which it is harder to determine whether an injury or illness is work-related. If you are hurt while you are on your lunch break or when engaging in inappropriate behavior while on the job, for example, your injury may not count as work-related.
4. You Must Meet Reporting and Filing Deadlines
Even if you meet all the other eligibility requirements, you could lose your right to receive workers’ compensation benefits if you do not meet your state’s deadlines for reporting the injury to your employer and filing a claim. Again, the laws vary from one state to another, but it is generally best to report to your employer and file a claim as quickly as possible. The longer you wait, the less likely you are to be eligible to receive benefits.
Certain types of workers are not eligible to receive workers’ comp benefits in some states. Domestic workers and agricultural and farm workers, for example, are not eligible for workers’ comp coverage in many states. Leased or loaned employees, casual or seasonal workers and undocumented workers also are not eligible in certain states.
Understanding Your Rights
If you have been injured on the job or are suffering from a work-related illness, knowing and understanding your rights isn’t always easy. If your workers’ compensation claim has been denied or you are unsure of the process for filing, contacting a lawyer is the best way to ensure that your rights are not violated. A workers’ compensation attorney can also help you determine whether you are eligible to receive benefits.
At Kopelman Sitton, we can help. We understand how a work-related injury or illness can disrupt your life, and we are here to help you secure the workers’ compensation benefits you are entitled to. Contact us today to schedule a consultation.