Are all workers eligible for workers' compensation?

The basic rule for worker's compensation coverage is that all employers must provide it to eligible employees who may become seriously injured or ill because of the work they do in service to their employer. Claims can be made for injuries that occurred on or off company grounds. The system is designed to compensate workers for their medical bills, and lost work when they are hurt on the job. It turns out, however, that "all employers" comes with some exceptions. Some of these can depend on the place where your company is located, as most policies are based on state laws.

Eligibility requirements

Eligibility falls into one of three areas.

  • You must work for a company that is required to cover their employees, or they must choose to cover you anyway.
  • You must be considered an employee of the company.
  • Your illness or injury must be work related.

Who's required to carry workers' compensation?

While most employers are required to carry workers' comp, there are some exceptions. In some states, only companies with three or more employees need to carry coverage, in others even a single employee is enough to require coverage. In some states charities are allowed to opt out of the workers' compensation program. Even if employers fall into one of these categories, many choose to opt into the workers' comp program anyway.

There is also some gray area when it comes to certain types of workers. In the case of temp agency employees it can be unclear whether the agency or the company where work is being done will be responsible for covering a worker. Employers are also not required to cover domestic workers that work in their homes, such as housekeepers or babysitters. Some seasonal employment may also be exempt. Whether or not to cover undocumented workers depends on the state -- some demand coverage, others demand that coverage be denied. Others, including Pennsylvania, looks at specifics in a given situation. Overall, most will be required to carry coverage, if your employer says they are not, a lawyer can help you double check that they are really exempt from being covered.

What is an employee?

Simply providing a service for a company does not make you an employee. Many employers regularly work with a variety of independent contractors, including freelancers, consultants, and other contractors who they are generally not required to include in their workers' compensation policies. Volunteers for the company don't have to be covered either, although some companies choose to cover them, especially if their work puts them at risk, such as with volunteer firefighters. Some employers misclassify those who do work for them as independent contractors when they are actually employees. If you do extensive work for a single company and have been hurt while engaged in duties for that company, it is important to speak to an attorney to review your working relationship and determine whether you are eligible for workers' compensation.

Work related injuries

Some work related injuries are more clear-cut than others, such as hurting your back after heavy lifting on the job site or getting sick from toxic fumes in the workplace. Other instances may present a harder fight, such as being injured while commuting to work in the company car or while engaging in a recreational activity at a company-sponsored event.

If you believe you may have a workers' compensation claim, it is important to cooperate with the terms your company's workers' compensation policy and keep detailed notes your injury or illness and its progression. If you have any questions about whether you are eligible for workers' comp or how to make a claim, contact an attorney at Dugan & Associates, P.C. We will investigate your situation and fight for the compensation you deserve.

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