Workers' Compensation laws provide benefits for workers who get injured while on the job. The laws vary from state to state, but generally there are four types of injuries we see covered by workers' compensation.
With repeated trauma injuries, there's no actual striking or wounding of the body. Rather, the injury happens over a period of time and is caused by repetitive movements.
For example, say your job involves moving material in and out of machinery hundreds of times a day. Over time, it may cause an injury to the soft tissues in your arms, shoulders, neck, or back, carpal tunnel syndrome, etc...
In many states, mental injuries may be covered by workers' comp, whether or not you've suffered a physical injury. In Pennsylvania generally the standard is a little tougher to obtain benefits.
For example, say you injure your back at work and can't do your job. If you become emotionally overwhelmed by your injuries not being able to work, your debilitating pain, anxiety, depression having bills stack up, and hearing it may take some time before your workers' comp claim resolved, you may be entitled to benefits for that emotional disability.
An incident not directly related to you may trigger, in some states, coverage too. For instance, if you saw a co-worker lose a limb in a piece of machinery, the shock may prevent you from going back to work around that machinery. In Pennsylvania again it may be a little tougher depending on the specifics of your case. Certainly if you lost your limb in a workplace accident and have post-traumatic stress disorder you may be entitled to benefits for that condition.
Sometimes coverage kicks in when no one is hurt physically. If there are extraordinary circumstances not usually incident to your employment that is objective that cause stress it may be possible to get benefits.
In some states, workmens compensation covers certain occupational diseases-medical conditions developed over time and caused by working conditions.
The Workers' Compensation laws usually specify what's covered. Diseases and conditions caused by exposure to toxic chemicals and materials at work are good examples, like asbestosis, Silicosis, or Coal Workers Pneumoconiosis.
Sometimes a worker claims an occupational disease naturally flows from a particular job. To collect workers comp, you have to show that the disease typically isn't connected to ordinary life experiences. for example, you could prove a large number of employees in a particular field all developed the same disease.
If you are uncertain if your injury is work-related or covered by worker's compensation talk to your boss or human resources department. They should be able to answer a lot of your questions. If you don't agree with the answers you get-or if you don't get any at all- consider talking to an attorney. Workers hurt on the job are entitled to medical and financial help. It's the law.
Questions for your Attorney
If I re-injure an old work injury, is the second injury covered? What if the injuries happened a two different jobs? Can I be fired for missing too much work because of a covered injury? Does my employer have to pay my health insurance while I'm injured and off work?