When you find yourself asking, “What is workers’ compensation?” you or someone you know has probably been injured or is unwell because of their job.
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance that gives a person who is injured on the job medical benefits for the injury and wage replacement for the time they need to take off because of their injury. When an employee accepts workers’ compensation they relinquish their rights to sue their employer for negligence.
Workers’ compensation does not usually cover a victim or their family’s pain and suffering. When a worker utilizes their workers’ compensation benefits, punitive damages for employer negligence are generally not available to the injured worker or their family.
While the above lays out the basics of, “What is workers’ compensation?” you may still be asking yourself, “But what will workers’ compensation do for me and my particular situation?”
To answer this question, it may be helpful to understand some of the history behind workers’ compensation in the United States
A Brief History of Workers’ Compensation
Georgia and Alabama were the first states to have a version of workers’ compensation when they passed Employer Liability Acts in 1855. Similar acts were passed between 1855 and 1907 in 26 other states.
Early laws permitted employees to sue their employer and to seek compensation for a negligent act or omission.
The first state to pass a statewide workers’ compensation law was in Maryland in 1902. The first law covering federal employees soon followed in 1906. At this time, workers’ compensation laws were voluntary.
What is Workers’ Compensation? and How it Relates to Employees vs Employers
Workers’ compensation is designed to protect both the injured employee and the employer.
While plans differ from state to state and among different employers, they can be used by an employee:
- As a form of disability insurance for an injury from their job
- To ensure compensation for economic loss
- As reimbursement and payment of medical and related expenses
- As benefits payable to the dependents of workers killed while on the job.
At the turn of the 20th century, some argued that compulsory workers’ compensation laws would violate the 14th Amendment’s due process clause. Many employers were concerned that this would deprive an employer of property without due process.
In many ways, when employees gained the right to workers’ compensation, they had to give up rights to sue their employers. This is known as “the compensation bargain” which helped to solve the problem of an employer becoming insolvent or having to go out of business because of high damage awards.
The system of “collective liability” gives security of compensation to workers while giving employers a certain amount of immunity to being sued by an injured worker.
Some Things to Know about Workers’ Compensation
If you find yourself asking, “What is workers’ compensation?” because you were injured on the job, or if an immediate family member or spouse was killed because of a work related injury, there are some things you should know before you sign on to use your employer’s workers’ compensation insurance.
There are many nuances to workers’ compensation laws and only a licensed attorney is qualified to give you proper legal guidance. It is recommended that you talk to an attorney to make sure that you and your family are going to get the compensation you will need to fully heal and so that your family’s fiscal health is not damaged.
No matter how kind or good hearted your employer may seem, their insurance company will do everything that they can to pay as little money as they can for a claim.
There are many things that the average person does not know about injuries and how the injuries may affect them in the future. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney understands the laws and what a victim is entitled to.
If you are asking yourself, “What is workers’ compensation?” do yourself a favor by contacting a qualified attorney to fully explain this and to help you determine how it may apply to your particular situation.