Does my Employer Need to Offer Workers’ Compensation?
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Sarah E. Stottlemyer with Stottlemyer & Associates, LLC.
Workers’ compensation or “workers’ comp” laws vary state by state, but something they share in common is the blanket requirement for most employers to offer it in some form. Texas is the only state with an exception to this rule. In Texas, employers are not required to offer workers’ compensation; however, many choose to do so anyway. In Georgia, the workers’ comp laws are more typical in that companies with three or more workers are required to offer workers’ comp. If you have been injured at work, the question is probably not whether or not your employer has workers’ comp, but how to qualify for receive workers’ comp benefits.
Workers’ compensation is a type of insurance designed to provide for injured workers and protect employers.
Workers’ comp benefits typically include payments for limited medical bills and wages lost during the worker’s treatment and recovery. It’s important to note that most employers will require you to see an in-network medical provider in order to apply workers’ comp benefits and will only cover lost wages on a short-term basis. Workers’ comp also provides liability protection for employers. An employee receiving workers’ comp benefits cannot file a lawsuit against their employer unless the injury was a direct result of the employer’s negligence.
If you have been injured at work, the following steps can help you seek workers’ compensation:
- Take pictures of the scene of the injury. Assuming you have not been severely injured and are in need of emergency medical care, it’s a good idea to take pictures at the scene where the injury occurred. Any contributing factors such as vehicles, equipment, and even the weather can help prove when, where, and how the injury occurred.
- Collect witness contact information and testimonies. If anyone witnessed the injury, it’s a good idea to collect their contact information and even record their testimony if they agree to it. Like the pictures, this can help prove how the injury happened.
- Contact your employer. This step can happen at the same time as the above steps. It’s a good idea to contact your employer at the scene or as soon as possible after receiving emergency medical care. If your company has a human resources (HR) department, this will be your resource for filing a workers’ comp claim. If the company does not have an HR department, talk to your employer directly.
- Seek medical care. If you have not sought emergency medical care yet, this is the time to do so. Seeking medical care ensures that an official record exists documenting your injury. This is an important step to qualifying for workers’ comp benefits and is also important in the event that you qualify to file a workplace injury or third-party claim.
- Do what the doctor says. This is an often overlooked but important part of the workers’ comp process. The employer will receive the doctor’s recommendations for an injured worker; if the worker does not follow these recommendations (i.e. attending follow-up appointments, staying off their feet, taking medications, etc.), they could be disqualified from continuing to receive workers’ comp benefits.
- Talk to a workers’ comp attorney. If you run into any difficulty with your workers’ compensation claim, or if your employer claims they don’t need to offer workers’ comp, reach out to a workers’ comp attorney in your area as soon as possible. These attorneys typically offer free consultations and do not charge out-of-pocket costs, allowing injured workers to quickly get an idea of what kind of claim they might have for physical and financial recovery.
Workers’ comp attorneys do not advise injured workers to accept employer’s offers to pay outside of workers’ comp.
Workers’ comp claims can actually make a company's insurance rates increase; some employers may instead offer to cover the injured worker’s damages themselves. However, this is not recommended by most workers’ comp attorneys, as employers rarely have the right idea of how extensive someone’s damages might be, and the money typically runs out prior to the workers’ needs being met. If you are unsure how to qualify for workers’ comp or are having difficulties with your claim, the best thing you can do is reach out to a workers’ comp attorney in your area who is familiar with the laws and can quickly sort out the situation to make sure you and your family receive the support you are entitled to during your recovery.