Are You Eligible For Workers' Compensation?

If you are recently injured at work, then there's a good chance you can have the financial burden of your recovery taken care of through your workers' compensation benefits. However, there are a series of eligibility requirements you must first meet before you can receive these benefits. The following explains what these requirements are and how they could affect your ability to receive compensation for on-the-job injuries.

You Must Be an Employee to Receive Benefits

If you're an employee who receives a salary or hourly wages for your work, then you're eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits. The vast majority of companies in your state will likely carry workers compensation insurance, but there are a few exceptions to take note of:

  • If you're working for a company as a volunteer, you may not be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Workers' comp coverage isn't typically extended to volunteers unless your company explicitly extends its coverage to include volunteer workers.
  • If you're working for a company as an independent contractor, you won't be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. Companies are not obligated under state law to provide worker's comp coverage for those who are hired specifically to perform contract work.
  • If you're self-employed, then you'll have to purchase your own workers' compensation coverage in order to make yourself eligible for benefits.

It's important to note that independent contractors differ in a number of ways from ordinary employees. For instance, independent contractors are typically paid per assignment once the assignment is complete. Independent contractors are also responsible for deducting their own state and federal taxes, whereas employees have those taxes deducted from their wages by their employer's payroll department. Last but not least, independent contractors typically work without direct supervision using their own equipment and office space.

It's not unusual for companies to misclassify employees as independent contractors to circumvent workers' comp requirements. If you feel that you're eligible for workers' comp, you'll want to bring the issue up with your local labor board and your workers' comp attorney.

Your Employer Must Have Coverage

Even if you're working for a company as an employee, your eligibility for workers compensation benefits hinges on whether or not your employer has coverage. Most state laws mandate employers to carry workers compensation insurance unless they meet the following exceptions:

  • Your employer's company operates with fewer than three employees.
  • Your employer is a charitable organization that is exempt from workers' compensation insurance requirements.

Nevertheless, some employers may attempt to forgo workers compensation coverage due to its cost. If you feel that you're eligible for workers comp benefits only to find that your employer does not carry coverage, you may want to consult with your workers' comp attorney. Most states have steep penalties for companies who refuse to carry the coverage.

The Injury In Question Must Be Work-Related

In order to make a successful workers' compensation claim, your injury must meet the following criteria:

  • You suffered the injury while at work during the course of your regular duties.
  • The injury did not occur while you were impaired by drugs or alcohol.
  • The injury is serious enough to merit filing a workers' compensation claim.

As long as you were performing your job duties at the time of your injury, you won't have any problem filing a workers' comp claim. These claims aren't limited to in-office duties -- accidents that occur during a delivery, customer visits or field work are likely to be eligible. However, injuries sustained while commuting to and from work aren't covered.

Keep in mind that workers' compensation claims aren't limited to physical injuries. Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) injuries acquired while on the job and occupational maladies such as carpal tunnel syndrome may also be covered under your employer's workers' comp coverage. For more information, contact an experienced workers compensation lawyer