Worker Compensation

Workers' compensation programs and laws exist to protect
employees who are injured while on the job. These laws are
usually a feature of highly developed industrial societies.
Workers' compensation laws are often only implemented after
long and hard fought struggles by labor unions. There are often
benefits available to dependents of workers killed on the job.

Prior to statutory law, employees who were injured on the job
were only able to pursue their employer through civil or torts
law. In some countries like the United Kingdom this was difficult
due to the legal view of employment as a master-servant
relationship. Proof of employer malice or negligence was usually
required, a difficult thing for an employee to prove. While
employer liability was unlimited, courts usually awarded in favor
of the employer, and did not take into account the full losses
experienced by workers: medical costs, lost wages, and
damages for loss of future earning capacity.

Workers' compensation laws were enacted to mitigate litigation
expenses for both sides and to eliminate the need for injured
workers to prove their injuries were the employer's "fault." The
first US law was passed in Maryland in 1902. In the next twenty
years, many states followed. This system was formerly known as
workman's compensation.

In the United States most employees who are injured on the job
Have an absolute right to medical care for that injury, and in
many cases monetary payments to compensate for resulting
temporary or permanent disabilities.

Most employers are required to carry workers' compensation
insurance, and in most states there are heavy financial penalties
for an employer's not having insurance. In many states there are
public uninsured employer funds to pay benefits to workers
employed by companies who illegally fail to purchase insurance.
Insurance policies are available to employers through
commercial insurance companies: if the employer is deemed an
excessive risk to insure at market rates, it can obtain coverage
through an assigned-risk program.

It is illegal in some states (although not in others) for an
employer to fire an employee for reporting a workplace injury or
for filing a workers' compensation claim; it is illegal in most
states to not hire someone for having filed a workers'
compensation claim in the past. However, employers can consult
commercial databases of claims data and it would seem nearly
impossible to prove that an employer discriminated against a job
applicant because of his or her workers' compensation claims
history. To ameliorate against discrimination of this type, some
states Have created a "subsequent injury trust fund" which will
reimburse insurers for benefits paid to workers who suffer
aggravation or recurrence of a compensatable injury.

It is also illegal to falsely claim workers' compensation benefits.
Some employers hire private investigators to surreptitiously
videotape claimants; some of these sub rosa videos Have shown
employees, who claimed to be disabled, engaging in sports or
other strenuous physical activity. TV shows Have recently been
made using these videos.

Some employers vigorously contest employee claims for
workers' compensation payments; in any contested case, or in
any case involving serious injury, an attorney with specific
experience in handling workers' compensation claims on behalf
of injured workers should be consulted. Many if not most state
laws provide that a claimant's attorney fees are limited to a
certain percentage of an award, and may be paid only from a
successful recovery or award.
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