What Is Workers’ Compensation?
American workers have been subjected to hazardous worksites dating back to when our soon-to-be nation was still an English colony, a fact that a workers compensation lawyer in the Racine, Wisconsin area knows. Throughout American history, the federal government, state governments, and local governments have taken steps to better ensure that American workers remain safe on the job. For example, over the past several decades, the influence of the federal Occupational Health and Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has dramatically altered the ways in which American employers are required to approach safety issues. The formation of unions have bolstered workers’ rights, increased wages, strengthened regulations and have put an end to problematic company practices that take advantage of workers and put them in harm’s way. Many clients have been represented by a workers compensation lawyer such as one from Hickey & Turim, S.C.
However, despite these efforts, work-related injuries and fatalities still occur with startling frequency. According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, in 2019 there were 5,333 workers who died from worker-related injuries. Some of this harm occurs because not all American employers take safety regulations seriously. State to state, there are large variations in regulatory standards among companies as well as different industries. Other injuries, occupational illnesses, and harm occurs simply because human error and gaps in our collective knowledge mean that risk will always be a presence in the American workplace. Certain occupations also have a higher likelihood of a worker-related injury occurring.
Thankfully, there are legal safeguards in place that are designed to be on the side of workers. In the United States, the first modern form of a workers compensation system was established in 1884 as a result of the Workers Accident Insurance. Since then, workers compensation has evolved to address a multitude of scenarios and the complexities of updated laws. When accidents and working conditions lead to injuries and illnesses, the workers’ compensation system helps to ensure that workers do not have to absorb many of the financial costs associated with the harm they have suffered.
The Ins and Outs of Workers’ Compensation
Each state employs its own workers’ compensation system. As a result, the practical and administrative details of each claims process is distinct. This can make it confusing and frustrating to navigate for injured victims to set up a claim without the help of a lawyer. However, the overarching goals and processes of the workers’ compensation system generally remain similar, no matter where a worker resides. For example, the workers’ compensation system is a no-fault system throughout the U.S. This means that, with very few exceptions, eligible workers are entitled to benefits even if they may have partially or totally caused an accident or repetitive trauma injury on the job. In most cases, a worker who suffers an injury while they’re on the clock can be eligible regardless of their role in the accident. This reduces the burden on workers and increases the accessibility of workers compensation claims. Most states only prohibit workers from collecting benefits if they were high or intoxicated when the harm occurred, they were injured as a result of an altercation they initiated, or they intentionally set about to get injured in an effort to collect compensation.
It’s also important to note that full-time and part-time employees (and independent contractors who have been misclassified) who are eligible for workers’ comp benefits can collect them without fear of retaliation. Employers cannot legally retaliate against a worker for exercising their rights under the workers’ compensation system. Eligible employees are entitled to benefits regardless of their immigration status.
When workers’ compensation benefits awards are approved, these benefits generally cover medical expenses directly related to the worker’s injuries, lost wages, and rehabilitation assistance if the worker needs to be trained in a position that accommodates their injury.
Returning to Work
After suffering an injury, you may have several questions about what happens next. It’s important that you are aware of your employer’s return to work policies. Before deciding to go back to work, always follow the recommendations of your primary doctor to prevent any risk of further harm that could exacerbate your injury.
Workers have several options available to them post-injury. Unfortunately, your employer does not have to save or create a new position for you after you’ve been injured. However, you may still be eligible to receive compensation of lost earnings during that period.
If you are unable to return to work due to your injuries, you may be able to file a “Loss of Earning Capacity” claim with the help of a workers compensation lawyer in Racine, Wisconsin. This applies if your employer is unable to provide you a job anymore and you also suffer a head, leg, neck, back, or “whole body” injury. For example, a “loss of earning capacity” claim may be filed if a worker sustains a spinal injury and their company cannot provide an open position for them.
Legal Assistance Is Available
Although workers can technically file a claim without an attorney’s assistance, doing so is generally inadvisable. Unless your injuries are so minor that you only expect to be out a few days and won’t require follow-up medical care, it’s important to work with an attorney who can determine whether your benefits award is fairly valued. Working with an attorney can also help to ensure that your claim won’t be rejected, and increase your chances of earning the fair compensation that you deserve. Attorneys have the skills, qualifications, and years of experience to evaluate crucial case details thoroughly that might be otherwise missed. If you’ve been hurt while on the job, you should consider scheduling a confidential and risk-free consultation to discuss how to best build your case.
At Hickey & Turim, S.C., we have successfully helped numerous clients get justice and receive compensation. We abide by a “no win, no fee” policy and are committed to fiercely fighting for our clients. We look forward to helping you explore your options at this time. If you want to file a workers compensation claim, schedule a consultation with a workers compensation lawyer that the Racine, WI community values.