Workers’ compensation laws are designed to ensure payment by employers for some part of the cost of injuries, or in some cases of occupational diseases, received by employees in the course of their work. Worker’s compensation legislation requires the employer to furnish a reasonably safe place to work, suitable equipment, rules and instructions when they are reasonably necessary, and reasonably competent foremen and superintendents. The employer is liable for an employee’s acts of negligence, for the employer’s own gross negligence, and for extraordinary risks of work. In most cases the employer is not liable for accidents occurring outside the place of work, or for those which have not arisen directly from employment.
State workers’ compensation statutes vary by state. The Federal Employment Compensation Act covers non-military federal employees or those workers employed in some significant aspect of interstate commerce. These laws also provide benefits for dependents of those workers who are killed because of work-related accidents or illnesses. Some laws also protect employers and fellow workers by limiting the amount an injured employee can recover from an employer and by eliminating the liability of co-workers in most accidents.
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Other statutes provide similar protection to employees for injuries due to employer negligence, such as railroad employees under The Federal Employment Liability Act (FELA), and seamen under The Merchant Marine Act (the Jones Act). The Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (LHWCA) provides workers’ compensation to specified employees of private maritime employers. The Black Lung Benefits Act provides compensation for miners suffering from “black lung” (pneumoconiosis).
Workers typically need to hire a workers’ compensation lawyer when they are refused benefits to which they are entitled, are told that they can return to work before they are actually medically able, or are denied extended or permanent disability despite significant disabling injury. If your employer’s doctor declares that you are able to return to work even though you disagree, or tries to get you to return to work to a special job created to accommodate your injury, you should seek professional legal advice.
Attorneys who practice in the area of workers’ compensation represent individuals who are injured or have had a loved one that has been injured or killed in a work related accident. Many different types of injuries can be compensated for, including back injuries, brain injuries, repetitive stress and carpal tunnel syndrome, among others. Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state, and have very specific procedural requirements. A lawyer who specializes in workers’ compensation or personal injury law can protect your rights in many ways. For example, if someone other than your employer or co-worker was partly at fault for your injury, you may be able to file a liability insurance claim against that person or business.
Also, if your accident is not covered by workers’ compensation, you may be entitled to bring legal action against someone for whom you were working, just as you could file a claim against any other person who caused you personal injury. In such a case, you may be able to recover compensation that you couldn’t recover in a workers’ compensation claim, including attorney fees, compensation for pain and suffering, and punitive damages.