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Worker's compensation, also known as “worker's comp” or “workman's comp”, is an insurance program enforced at the state level which provides compensation to employees for work related injury or illness. Workers are entitled to compensation benefits for their medical treatments, lost wages and vocational rehabilitation, while employers enjoy immunity from lawsuits and other civil proceedings related to these accidents. There are also federally run workers comp programs, but these are narrow in scope and affect workers in specific industries such as railroad, maritime and coal-mining.
When an employee is injured or becomes sick on the job they qualify for workers comp benefits. What are these benefits? Typically an employee can expect to receive: two thirds of their salary tax free (subject to a ceiling), payment for lost wages, long term wages, payment or reimbursement for medical expenses, and benefits conveyable to the dependents of a worker who is killed; in these ways, workers comp can function as a form of disability, health and life insurance. A worker will qualify for workers comp benefits even if the injury or illness did not physically occur at the workplace. All that is necessary is for the ailment to be directly attributable to something done while being employed-this includes errands, traveling, seminars and social functions.
One of the key features of worker's compensation is the fact that employees lose the right to sue an employer in exchange for their benefits. While this is true in most cases, there are two key exceptions to this rule. If an employee’s injury or illness results from gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional endangerment from an employer, the employer can be held personally liable. Should an employer fail to carry the required coverage they are liable as well. In both instances, the employee can claim the same damages as in any other lawsuit including punitive damages, mental anguish, and pain and suffering among others.
Workers should not fear filing a compensation claim. Laws currently prohibit employers from threatening to terminate employment for filing, or discriminating during the hiring process based on previous claims made.
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