Workers' compensation insurance policies cover the expenses associated with job-related injuries and illnesses. Although workers' compensation (or workers' comp) is regulated at the state level, most employers in the U.S. are required to carry a certain amount of coverage relative to the risks associated with the job. This section includes information about handling a claim, how to maintain adequate coverage without paying too much, links to state-specific resources and other topics pertaining to workers' comp from the employer's perspective.
Worker's Compensation: Employer Responsibilities
In most states employers are required to purchase insurance from their employees from a workers' compensation insurance carrier. In some states large financially solvent companies are allowed to self-insure, while very small companies may be exempt from carrying workers' compensation insurance at all. Unless they fall within limited exempt categories employers without workers' compensation insurance are subject to fines, criminal prosecution, and civil liability.
In addition to providing workers' compensation most states include additional duties. These may include;
- posting a notice of compliance at each job site,
- providing immediate emergency medical treatment for workers' injured on the job,
- furnishing further medical attention if a worker can't select a doctor,
- completing a report of the injury and submitting it the local workers' compensation board and their insurance company
- making a written report of every accident resulting in personal injury that causes a loss of time from regular duties beyond the working day or shift when the accident occurred or that requires medical treatment beyond first aid or two treatments by a doctor,
- complying with all requests for further information by the workers' compensation board or the insurance company.
An attorney also has a responsibility not to retaliate against workers who file compensation benefit claims. Acting against such an employee can result in civil actions against the employer for retaliation or "retaliatory discharge" if they are fired.
Handling a Claim: Employer and Employee Responsibilities
When an employee is injured while at work the employer has certain responsibilities and must follow certain procedures in order to avoid liability beyond that arising from the accident itself.
Employers must first attempt to avoid workplace accidents. If an employee is injured the employer must file the required report with the company's workers' compensation carrier and cooperate with the carrier and their attorneys when they investigate the matter. The employee must be permitted to seek treatment and must be welcomed back to work when they are well enough to resume employment. The employer is also responsible for assisting the state workers' compensation board in curbing fraud.
Employees also have responsibilities when an accident happens on the job. Workers must act responsibly at work. The employer is not responsible where workers are intoxicated, committing a crime, or knowingly violating a policy or code. Employees must also report workplace injuries as soon as possible. This may include filling out forms or reports about the incident. Employees must seek treatment promptly, since minor injuries can become serious without treatment. Employees must responsibly manage information provided by the employer and workers' compensation carrier. They should cooperate with any requests made by the insurer and be responsible for their actions in and outside of work since insurance companies may hire private investigators to prevent fraud. Finally, employees are responsible for determining how to proceed with their claim.