If you ever become injured on the job and are unable to work, you may be able to collect workers’ compensation. This is a state-mandated insurance program that provides money for injured workers. In exchange, you cannot sue your employer for your injuries (with one exception that we’ll discuss later in this post).
Eligibility for Workers’ Compensation
In order to be eligible for workers’ compensation, the following must be in place:
- The injury must have been the result of duties related to your work.
- The employer must carry workers’ compensation insurance (or, be required to carry the insurance).
- You are classified as an employee of the business or individual you were working for at the time of your injury. (You cannot be an independent contractor).
The injury you sustain at work must be work-related, meaning that you cannot have sustained an injury off the job and subsequently file a claim for workers’ compensation. In some cases, however, it’s sometimes difficult to determine if the duty was work-related. For example, if you’re injured while on your lunch break running an errand, it’s probably not work-related. However, most likely an errand for your boss falls under the work-related category.
Employer Must Carry Workers’ Compensation
The business or individual you were working for at the time of your injury must either carry workers’ compensation or at least be required to carry it. Because not all employers are required to carry workers’ compensation, it’s possible yours does not. The responsibility to carry the insurance is dependent upon the type of business it is, how many employees it has and the type of work the employees must perform. If your employer claims he is not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, you may want to check with a workers compensation lawyer.
If your employer does not carry the insurance and you feel it is required to do so, you should consult with a workers’ compensation attorney.
Classified as an Employee
In order to collect under the workers’ compensation insurance program, the employer must classify you as an employee, not an independent contractor or a volunteer.
However, many companies misclassify their workers as independent contractors instead of employees. Independent contractors include those that freelance or consult on projects. If you feel that you’ve been misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee, this is also a good time to check with an attorney.
Even if you meet all the above three requirements, you may not qualify for benefits if you fall into one of a few groups of workers who may be exempt from workers’ compensation.
Domestic workers. A domestic worker is someone who works in another person’s home, such as a babysitter, housekeeper or gardener.
Farm and agricultural workers. Some agricultural and farm workers are exempt from workers’ compensation. Consult with an attorney if you’re unclear as to which farm workers are exempt.
Seasonal workers. You’re considered a seasonal worker if you only work during certain times of the year, or work sporadically. Examples of seasonal workers include construction workers, landscapers or snow plow drivers.
Suing Your Employer or a Third-Party
As discussed above, there is one instance where you can sue your employer for the injuries you sustain on the job: if the employer intentionally caused your injury.
You can also sue a third-party entity for your injury, such as the manufacturer of the faulty piece of equipment you were using at the time of your injury.
Workers’ compensation can be a complex process and a process you should not go through alone. For more information, set up a consultation with our firm.