When you are hurt on the job, your employer's workers' compensation insurance should cover you. If your claim is approved, you can expect to have all of your related medical expenses covered. Also, if your doctor tells you to stay home from work while you get better, you can be paid a weekly disability wage equal to about 66.6% of your salary (depending on your state of residence). Some work situations, though, don't offer employees coverage and it's smart to understand when it applies and when it doesn't. Read on and find out more about some workers' comp gray areas of coverage.
Who do you work for? That question may not be as easily answered as you might think. More and more people work on a contract, freelance, or temporary basis than ever before. In most cases, if you filled out and out signed a W-4 form when you were hired, you are a direct employee of the company. The W-4 form allows the company to deduct certain taxes from your pay before you get it. If so, you are likely eligible for workers' compensation insurance coverage.
If you are eligible, you don't have to do anything to sign up—you are covered from your first moment on the job and the cost to you, the employee, is nothing. Your employer pays the premiums for your coverage. However, if you fall under the following circumstances, there may be more work to do.
1. Federal Employees: Federal employees are commonly covered under a government form of workers' compensation whereas private companies use for-profit insurers. The way federal employees file and the rules are different but they get the same basic coverage as those who work for non-governmental companies.
2. Temporary Workers: Most temporary workers are covered under a workers' compensation plan but who provides that coverage can vary. Some companies hire temporary workers directly for a given period of time and they are usually eligible for the same workers' compensation benefits that everyone else at the company is. Some workers, though, may be employed by a temporary employment agency. In that case, a hurt temporary worker can be eligible for the workers' compensation insurance that the employment service uses.
3. Independent Contractors: This class of employees seldom enjoys workers' compensation insurance coverage. No matter how long the worker might have been paid by a company, if the company classifies the worker as a contract employee, they are not eligible for workers' comp or other benefits like health insurance. These workers do have the option to purchase and pay premiums on a private workers' compensation plan, however.
4. Volunteer Workers: With one notable exception, volunteer workers are not eligible for workers' compensation benefits. For example, volunteer firefighters may be eligible for workers' comp insurance and other paid employee benefits as well.
If you've been hurt on the job and are finding it difficult to get the coverage you believe you are eligible for, speak to a workers' compensation attorney.