Am I Eligible For Workers' Compensation Benefits?

Posted on: 2 September 2015

You were just injured on the job. Maybe you slipped on a wet surface and fell. Maybe a piece of heavy machinery you were operating malfunctioned. Possibly, you were walking through a restricted area, and a piece of construction material fell on you. Who's at fault? And more importantly -- who pays for your medical care? You may think that getting injured on the job automatically qualifies you for workers' compensation, but that's not always true. If this has happened to you, now's the time to brush up on the requirements for you to qualify for this benefit.

1. Your Employer Must Carry Workers' Compensation Insurance

Surprisingly, not every company is required to carry this form of insurance. Requirements vary by state, but in a nutshell -- some charities may be exempt, farms and agricultural settings are often exempt, as could be companies that employ less than a minimum number of people. If your injury occurred while you were working for an organization that's exempt from providing workers' compensation insurance, then you can't collect. However, you should check into this situation in depth before giving up your claim.

Just because your employer tells you that you don't qualify, doesn't mean it's necessarily true. It could be the owner was indeed required to purchase it and didn't. It could also means he's being less than truthful to avoid having to file a claim. If you've been told you can't file a compensation claim because your employer isn't insured, contact a reputable workers' compensation attorney right away. 

2. You Must be a Paid Employee of the Company

To collect workers' compensation for an injury that occurred at work, you must be on the company payroll at the time of the accident. This sounds overly simple, but it can be more complicated than you think. If you're working as an independent contractor, for instance -- delivering newspapers, filling vending machines, or shooting photographs -- you may not be covered. You may also not be eligible if you were on-site as a volunteer. If you were injured while helping to build a home with a local charity organization, for instance -- you might be on your own with your medical expenses.

Again, these are cases where a good workers' compensation attorney could advise you on what to do next. Many companies take out extra insurance just to cover volunteers such as fire fighters or emergency medical personnel. 

3. Your Injury Must Have Occurred at Work

If you were injured while traveling in a company car or attending a company picnic, you're in a gray area where the laws could be interpreted either way. Some states cover these situations, some don't. Similarly, if you're employed through a temp agency, it may not be clear which location is considered your "work place" -- the temp agency or the work site to which you're on-loan. If you experience difficulty filing a workers' compensation claim because your company isn't certain that you were, in fact, injured on the job, get an attorney to look into your particular situation. 

The laws that regulate workers' compensation claims can be confusing and exclusive to the average American worker. This is why it's so important not to give up your claim on just the say-so of your employer or coworkers. Know and understand your rights under your individual state's laws. A good place to start is the U.S. Dept. of Labor that offers information for federal and other employees who desire more knowledge on compensation laws.

If you don't find what you're looking for there, contacting a good workers' compensation lawyer is the next logical step. You can also click here to find out more information.