Workers’ compensation refers to a system of laws outlining specific benefits to which injured employees are entitled, and the procedures for obtaining such benefits. Every state has its own workers’ compensation laws, which are contained in statutes, and vary somewhat from state to state. In addition, there are special workers’ compensation laws for employees of the federal government, and still others for workers in specific types of industries such as railroad employees.
Under the law in most states, every business must have some form of workers’ compensation insurance to cover injured employees. Filing a workers’ compensation claim is similar to filing an insurance claim; it isn’t a lawsuit against an employer, but rather a request for benefits.
The Purpose and Effect of Workers’ Compensation Laws Workers’ compensation laws are designed to ensure that employees who are injured on the job receive fixed monetary awards, without having to litigate their claims against their employers. In this way, workers’ compensation is an important safety net for employees when they are injured on the job or as a result of their job.
Most workers’ compensation laws also provide employers and co-workers with a certain level of protection, by limiting the amount employees can recover from their employers, and prohibiting, in most cases, injured employees from suing their co-workers. In essence, workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, where an injured worker’s own negligence, or the negligence of his or her employer or co-workers, is not put at issue; rather, the injured employee is simply covered for his or her work-related injuries.
Thus, workers’ compensation is an injured worker’s “exclusive remedy” with respect to a work-related injury, unless he or she can point to a third party who contributed to his or her injuries. For example, because workers are often injured by products or machinery they use at work, they may, and often do, seek compensation from the manufacturers of such products.