Workers’ compensation coverage is designed to protect employees who are injured on the job or to provide financial assistance to the family of an employee whose injuries are fatal. The injury does not only have to be caused by a sudden accident, such as a fall or equipment accident. Claims can also be made for repetitive movement injuries, physical conditions that are worsened by the conditions of the workplace and even psychological problems due to stress.
Any injury that occurs while someone is working is covered under workers’ compensation, as are injuries that occur in what is known as “in the course of employment.” For example, an appliance repairman would be covered under workers’ compensation if they were injured in a car accident on the way to a service call. However, they would not be covered by workers’ compensation if the car accident occurred while they were on their way to the repair shop first thing in the morning.
Expansion of Work-Related Injuries
Courts have expanded what can be considered a work-related injury over the past few years and now include a variety of different situations. Professional sports players have recently been permitted to collect workers’ compensation for injuries they receive while playing the game. In one landmark decision, a brewery worker as permitted to claim alcoholism as a work-related injury because his employer provided free beer to employees.
Repetitive movement injuries, such as carpal tunnel, have also been added to the list of medical conditions covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Most repetitive movement injuries can be resolved with a rest period, medication and adjustments to the work environment. In serious cases, surgery may be required. There have been repetitive movement injuries that have led to permanent disability.
In most cases, workers’ compensation is considered a “no-fault” system, allowing employees to recover damages even when their carelessness causes an injury. In some states, an employee’s misconduct can lead to restricted coverage, such as an injury that occurs during horseplay or in actions that were clearly discouraged by the employer. However, in many states, the injury is covered as long as the employee’s actions were not the sole reason they were injured. For example, if a warehouse employee is injured after falling from a ladder being used unsafely, if the employer has not made it clear that the manner in which the ladder was used is not permitted, the employee may be able to collect for their injuries.
In recent years, courts have expanded the coverage of psychological issues related to a stressful work environment. Stress can not only cause psychological problems, but can lead to medical issues as well. The American Institute of Preventative Medicine reports that as many as two-thirds of visits to physicians are related to stress and that it is the leading cause of heart disease in the country.
Although many states still do not recognize stress as a compensable workers’ compensation issue, many have instituted legislation requiring employers to provide accommodations if an employee can prove stress has caused medical issues that have reached the level of disability.
In some cases, work environmental causes (conditions the worker performs their job under) can lead to illness. Employees who must work in toxic conditions, such as coal mines or those who work with asbestos, may be eligible for workers’ compensation if they develop an illness related to their job. In some professions, such as firefighters and policemen, hernias and heart conditions may be covered under workers’ compensation due to the high stress people in those professions must work under.
When an employee dies of injuries they sustained in the course of their work, even if they are found dead in the workplace with no obvious cause of death, workers’ compensation should provide for the family members of the deceased employee. Even in cases of suicide or murder, the courts may award workers’ compensation benefits.
Workers’ compensation is a benefit provided by almost all employers in the United States. Although coverage and the requirements to provide workers’ compensation insurance varies, the majority of states provide some sort of protection for employees in the case of a work-related injury. If you or a loved one has been injured on the job, or if a loved one has died after being injured, you should be aware of the workers’ compensation laws in your state.
How we can help you
Situations involving injuries sustained at work due to accident, repetitiveness of duties, or hazardous work conditions may be covered under workers’ compensation laws. Situations involving workers’ compensation are usually complicated and are best handled by an experienced personal injury lawyer.
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