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What is workers' compensation?
Workers compensation is a program that provides benefits to certain workers or their dependents who suffer a work-related injury or disease. Workers’ compensation benefits may include
vocational rehabilitation, and
The workers' compensation system evolved quickly after the turn of the 20th century in this country. Along with the industrial revolution came bigger, faster, and more complex machinery, and many more workplace hazards. Congress passed the Workers' Compensation Act for federal employees in 1908. Each state has now passed workers' compensation laws providing benefits for workplace injuries and illness.
While the workers' compensation program is national, the states are responsible for implementing it, which means that important aspects of the program vary according to the laws of your state.
These laws were initially put in place to balance the rights of workers and employers and provide a way to settle differences quickly and privately. Both the employer and employee give up some legal rights under the workers' compensation laws of the various states. The employee gives up the right to go to court and sue his employer for on-the-job injuries which, in some states, could be for unlimited amounts of damages (although many states have passed laws capping the amount of damages). Instead, the worker is entitled to receive a definite award, based upon fixed maximums set by the various states.
In return, employers give up the right to deny responsibility due to potential negligence by the employee that may have contributed to the injury. The workers' compensation systems are considered "no-fault" systems. Employers finance the system primarily through insurance premiums, although in some states, companies may self-insure, which means that they pay all claims themselves.
What types of injuries are covered?
There are four different types of work-related injuries that qualify for workers’ compensation. You may be eligible for compensation for any of the injuries listed below:
Any physical injury on the job, which can include exposure to dust, toxins, hearing loss caused by workplace and repetitive motion injury - such as carpal tunnel.
Preexisting conditions that the workplace accelerates or aggravates. Examples may include a back injury, even though you do not notice the pain from the injury until later.
Injuries caused during breaks, lunch hours, and work-sponsored activities (such as a company picnic), and at-work injuries caused by company facilities, such as a chair in the company lunchroom.
Injuries resulting from mental and physical strain brought on by increased work duties or work-related stress. In some states, this includes employees who develop a disabling mental condition because of the demands of the job and a supervisor's constant harassment. Mental distress caused by something other than an initial physical injury is sometimes excluded from workers' compensation completely, depending on your state.