Workers’ compensation, also known as workmans’ comp, is a state-mandated insurance program that provides compensation to employees who suffer job-related injuries and illnesses. While the federal government administers a workers’ comp program for federal and certain other types of employees, each state has its own laws and programs for workers’ compensation. For up-to-date information on workers’ comp in your state, contact your state’s workers’ compensation office. (You can find links to the appropriate office in your state on the State Workers’ Compensation Officials page of the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.)
In general, an employee with a work-related illness or injury can get workers’ compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault — the employee, the employer, a coworker, a customer, or some other third party. In exchange for these guaranteed benefits, employees usually do not have the right to sue the employer in court for damages for those injuries.
Workers’ comp pays cash benefits to compensate you for time off work and permanent injuries that affect your ability to work.
Workers’ comp does pay hospital and medical expenses that are necessary to diagnose and treat your injury. But it also provides disability payments while you are unable to work (typically, about two-thirds of your regular salary), and may pay for rehabilitation, retraining, and other benefits as well. For more information, see Nolo’s article Types of Workers’ Compensation Benefits.
Workers’ compensation, also known as workmans’ comp, covers most, but not all, on-the-job injuries. The workers’ compensation system is designed to provide benefits to injured workers, even if an injury is caused by the employer’s or employee’s carelessness. But there are some limits. Generally, injuries that happen because an employee is intoxicated or using illegal drugs are not covered by workers’ compensation. Coverage may also be denied in situations involving:
- self-inflicted injuries (including those caused by a person who starts a fight)
- injuries suffered while a worker was committing a serious crime
- injuries suffered while an employee was not on the job, and
- injuries suffered when an employee’s conduct violated company policy.
First of all, not all employers are required to have workers’ compensation coverage. State laws vary, but an employer’s responsibility to provide coverage usually depends on how many employees it has, what type of business it is, and what type of work the employees are doing. Second, every state excludes certain types of workers. Although these exclusions vary, they often include farm workers, domestic employees, and seasonal or casual workers. For more information, see Nolo’s article Are You Eligible for Workers’ Compensation Benefits?