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Workers Compensation Basics

If an employee is injured while at work, the employer is required by law to financially compensate them. Because medical costs for worker injuries often exceed what an employer is able to pay out of pocket, many states require employers to purchase a workers’ compensation insurance plan.

Workers’ compensation insurance provides medical benefits and wage replacement to workers who are injured on the job. In exchange for these guaranteed benefits, employees usually do not have the right to sue the employer in court for damages for those injuries, saving the business from potential financial hardship. It also protects workers by ensuring that they receive the financial assistance they’ll need in order to receive treatment and recover from their injury.

First and foremost you should focus on keeping your office safe; consider hiring a workplace safety professional.

Types of Coverage

Workers’ compensation coverage differs between various states and jurisdictions. In general, most workers’ comp policies offer:

  • Disability insurance in the form of a provision made in place of weekly wages
  • Compensation for past and future economic loss as a result of injury
  • Reimbursement of medical expenses incurred as a result of injury
  • Benefits payable to the family of workers killed during employment, or another form of life insurance

Coverage and Exceptions

Workers’ compensation covers any injury or illness that occurs in the workplace, such as a fall from a ladder. It also covers those injuries and illnesses that are a result of the work itself, such as back problems, or by the workplace environment, such as asbestos or heavy metal poisoning.

Relatively new types of workplace injuries include stress, repetitive strain injuries, and silicosis. These types of injuries often go unnoticed and uncovered because they are considered to be relatively new workplace inuries and are a result of frequent light-duty or computer work.

There are a number of injuries that workers’ compensation insurance does not cover and as such do not impose a financial responsibility on the employer. Workers’ compensation often does not cover:

  • Self-inflicted injuries (including those of an instigator in a fight in the workplace)
  • Injuries suffered while not on the clock
  • Injuries suffered while the employee is intoxicated or while violating company policy

While the extent of coverage may vary depending on location, all states require businesses to pay for the medical treatment or lost wages that result from an injury or illness that occurred at work or was caused by their employment. Businesses can either purchase their workers’ compensation policy directly from the state or from a private insurance company. According to the Workers’ Compensation Action Network, California employers paid $14.8 billion in expenses for 530,000 occupational injuries in 2012 alone.

The cost of workers’ compensation coverage is usually one of the highest operating expenses that businesses will have to pay, but is a necessity for protecting your employees should they be injured while protecting your company from an even more expensive lawsuit on account of negligence.

If you’re looking at workers’ compensation insurance, you should also consider a general liability insurance plan and property insurance for your business.