We Know: How to File a Worker's Compensation Claim

What is a worker's compensation claim?

When a worker suffers a work-related injury or illness, they can file a worker's compensation claim. If their claim is approved, the worker can collect a percentage of their pay and may be eligible for medical assistance as well. Federal employees, and those working in certain fields, file their claims with the federal government for workers' compensation. Other employees file with their state's compensation board. The rules, requirements, and restrictions regarding workers' compensation claims vary by state. For details, you should visit your state's department of labor website.

Can I sue my employer for my injuries or illness if I receive worker's compensation?

Generally, no. Worker's compensation is meant to protect the worker as well as the employer. You can receive worker's compensation even if it was your fault that the accident, injury, or illness occurred. Anyone can be fault-- even the employer, and you'll still be covered. However, the employer can't be held liable for your condition. If you choose to, you can opt to not file a compensation claim, thereby allowing you to sue your employer. The main exception to this is that you can receive worker's compensation and still sue a company or individual (other than your employer) who was responsible for, or contributed to, your condition. For instance, if a product or machine you used on the job was the reason or part of the reason for why you received your illness or injury, you can sue the company or individual who made that product or machine.

Who do I file the worker's compensation claim with?

This can depend on how many employees work at your company and in which state you live. In most scenarios, your claim will be filed with the appropriate insurance company. That company will be responsible for paying out your approved benefits and medical bills.

Can anyone file a worker's compensation claim for work-related injuries or illnesses?

In some states, not everyone qualifies for worker's compensation. This may include independent contractors and certain job types or other circumstances. Check with your state's workers' compensation board to determine if you're eligible.

The Steps to Filing a Worker's Compensation Claim

If you suffer a work-related injury or illness, follow these steps:

  1. Seek immediate medical assistance.
  2. Notify your employer. This may be your immediate supervisor, or someone in the Human Resources (HR) department. Let them know what happened.
  3. File a worker's compensation claim with your state or federal agency immediately. If you wait too long, your rights may expire in some states. Also, the sooner you file, the sooner you'll receive compensation.
  4. If your employer disputes your worker's compensation claim, you can request to be heard by the workers' compensation board. You may also wish to consult with a worker's compensation lawyer.
  5. If you lose the decision made by the workers' compensation board, you have the right to appeal to a judge who represents the Workers' Compensation Administration.

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