As a tradesperson, workers’ compensation is meant to be there for you in the worst moments on the job. Falling off a ladder, electrocuting yourself, or even contracting a disease - these are all situations we would rather avoid, but nonetheless must prepare for in case anything goes wrong.
Hopefully you’re reading this post before you actually need “workers’ comp,” but in any case, here’s our guide on how to apply:
First, what is workers’ comp?
Workers’ comp is an insurance policy that is owned by an employer, which covers the fees for any injuries that their employees may sustain on the job. Broadly speaking, this will cover the employees’ medical bills, a percentage of their lost wages, and, in some cases, any disabilities that may have developed as a result of the injury.
This is meant to benefit the employee and the employer, because workers’ comp ensures that employees won’t sue their employers if they are injured at work.
How much workers’ comp insurance costs for an employer is determined by a variety of factors. According to Nationwide, the average rate is determined when each state bundles certain types of businesses together, and then averages out the costs from injury within those businesses over the past five years. Individually, some businesses may receive lower or higher premium payments for their workers’ comp insurance, depending on how safe they are. So, if you see that a prospective employer pays a comparatively low premium for their workers’ comp, then they likely maintain a safe work environment.
Step 1: Determine if you’re eligible.
Much like most insurance policies, the precise regulations around eligibility and filing for workers’ comp vary state-by-state. Broadly speaking, you are eligible for workers’ comp if you were injured or became ill while performing your duties in your job.
While the first thing that comes to mind may be slipping in the workplace or injuring yourself on a piece of machinery, this encompasses more than you might think. In fact, if you develop a sustained injury like carpal tunnel from typing, or contract COVID-19 directly from workplace activities, then you may be eligible for workers’ comp. The most important thing to determine, however, is that the injury happened on the job.
In addition to this, you also have to guarantee that your employer carries workers’ comp insurance. While this is required in most states, it’s always safe to check before you begin a job, especially since there can be severe penalties for employers who don’t carry workers’ comp.
NOTE: There are some types of employees who are excluded from workers’ comp. Volunteers, temps and most independent contractors are ineligible. Be sure to check in your contract and state laws to see whether or not you meet the necessary guidelines.
Step 2: Visit a doctor and make a report to your employer.
If you know that your employer carries workers’ comp and are certain that you were injured on the job, you’ll want to get a record of your injury. The best way of doing this is by visiting a healthcare professional, and receiving a medical record from them that proves the injury.
Next, deliver the report to your employer and let them know about your intent to file a workers’ comp claim. It’s best to do this as soon as possible, although most states generally give you 10-90 days after you were first injured. Be sure to deliver your note in written form in case of any legal disputes. In some cases, your employer may even file a workers’ comp claim for you - although this isn’t guaranteed.
Step 3: File your claim within the deadline.
Deadlines are also crucial for filing a workers’ comp claim. This process varies within each state, but the rule of thumb is that you should file your claim between 1-3 years after your injury, according to Nolo.com.
Determining the time when you were hurt might be tricky if it wasn’t a physical injury. Generally, the time will begin for your deadline after you have either missed work because of your injury, or visited a doctor to discuss it.
Soon after you make a report to your employer, they should give you a workers’ comp claim form to partially fill out. This form will detail your eligibility benefits, and how you can access them through workers’ comp. There will be a section for you, and a section for them to complete.
After return the form, they will complete their portion before sending it out to their insurance company who will investigate your claim and determine how much you are owed in payment. The exact amount and determination made here will vary from state to state. Make sure that you receive a copy of the filing from your employer.
In some cases, you can file to have your deadline extended if, for example, the injury became worse than you initially thought. Back problems are a great example of this. That’s why it’s always best to act as quickly as possible to avoid any legal pitfalls.
The process of filing for workers’ comp is so intricate for each state that it’s best to speak with a lawyer before filing your claim to determine your eligibility and the process of making a claim. Be sure to hire a lawyer that has extensive experience in workers’ comp. Check out Insureon's helpful tool to look up the rules in your state.
In the case of an injury, it’s best to be prepared, but it’s even better to be compensated! Luckily, workers’ comp helps you achieve both.