Detailed state laws define the exact types of injuries covered by Workers’ Compensation. In general, though, you can count on being compensated for injuries, illnesses, diseases and other conditions that arise out of the nature of your employment — either while on the job or over a period of time.
There’s a simple rule that you can apply to find out if a particular form of injury is eligible for Workers’ Compensation: you’re covered if you were paid for what you were doing at the time of sustaining an injury.
The injuries do need cause prolonged suffering, though. Cuts, scrapes, bruises, headaches that last a couple of days and other conditions that are quickly taken care of do not qualify (even if they may count for other forms of compensation). Workers’ Compensation is only designed to cover job required health conditions lasting over extended periods of time.
This is what isn’t covered
Commuting: Making the trip to your place of work each day is time that is almost never paid for. Injuries sustained during commutes do not qualify.
Lunchtime: When you go out for lunch each day, it’s considered your own time, rather than paid time. Any injury suffered during lunch hour, then, isn’t covered.
Some injuries that may not seem to qualify, on the other hand, do get coverage:
Company events: Injuries sustained by workers or their families when having fun at company-sponsored picnics or other events are covered. Workers usually do not have a choice when it comes to attending these events.
Horseplay: Workers sometimes sustain injuries while having fun during work hours. These injuries are usually not compensated for. However, if it can be proven that the employer did know that such horseplay occurred and did nothing about it, the injuries could then qualify.
Pre-existing conditions: Workers with pre-existing health conditions — a weak back, poor hearing, poor eyesight or asthma — will qualify for Workers’ Compensation if these conditions are exacerbated by unhealthy work. It doesn’t matter if the conditions existed, to begin with.
Cumulative injuries are covered
Painful and debilitating conditions such as carpal tunnel syndrome, hearing loss, respiratory diseases and joint injuries are cumulative in nature — they occur over months or years of being around unhealthy work environments. They often qualify for Workers’ Compensation even if there is no one point at which these conditions can be said to have started.
Mental health problems
Unhealthy job environments can cause more than just physical injuries; they can cause mental conditions, as well. In most states, Workers’ Compensation rules cover these conditions. From post traumatic stress disorder that arises from a single event to anxiety disorder (stress-related health conditions) and depression that develop over extended periods of time, workers receive coverage for any condition that can provably link to their work conditions.
It’s important to find representation
While Workers’ Compensation does help workers whose health has suffered as a result of their work, the laws and rules involved are notoriously hard for the average person to navigate. Not only can it be extremely difficult to provably link injuries to work conditions, it can be difficult simply to navigate the rules and paperwork involved. To any worker applying for compensation, then, it can be a huge advantage to go in with a qualified Workers’ Compensation attorney.
Legal representation can be invaluable not only in the initial application stage, but also in the appeals stage. One of the most beneficial parts of hiring such representation is that it costs nothing upfront. Reputable lawyers always work on contingency — they only get paid when they get you compensation.