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What are the dfferent workers' compensation benefits you can get?

If you are injured on the job or suffer a work-related illness or disease that prevents you from working you may be eligible to receive benefits from your state workers' compensation program. You also may be entitled to medical care. If your disability is classified as permanent or results in death, additional benefits may be available to you and/or your family. If you receive workers' compensation benefits, however, you lose your right to sue your employer for the injury.

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. Usually, injuries caused by an employee's intoxication or use of illegal drugs are not covered by workers' compensation. Coverage may also be denied for:

  • 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.

If your employer's conduct is especially egregious (for example, your employer did something intentional or reckless that injured you), you may be allowed to bypass the workers' compensation system and sue your employer in court-for much larger amounts of money than you could collect through workers' compensation.

Wage benefits are calculated based upon the average weekly wage -- the wages of the employee over a period of time are totaled up and then averaged. Once that average has been calculated, the employee is typically entitled to two-thirds of that average weekly wage (up to a statutory ceiling).

The second form of benefit received under workers' compensa­tion is medical coverage. If an employee is injured on the job, he or she is entitled to reasonable and necessary hospital and medi­cal treatment related to that injury to hopefully get him or her back on his or her and able to resume his or her employment. If the employee is not able to resume his or her former employ­ment, then he or she may be entitled to rehabilitation services that will either allow him or her to return to some other form of employment or be trained in a new line of work.

A final type of compensation that the employee may be entitled to as a result of an on-the-job injury is compensation for permanent disability. Most workers' compensation acts have cre­ated a schedule in which specific disabilities are worth a certain number of weeks of wages. For instance, a person who loses a foot may be entitled to one hundred and fifty weeks of wages over and above any other benefits that he or she may receive. A person who loses an eye on the job may be entitled to an equivalent amount of compensation. Those forms of compensation are in addition to the wage loss benefits otherwise paid and any medi­cal expenses that have been paid.

Your injury does not need to be caused by an accident-such as a fall from a ladder-to be covered. Many workers, for example, receive compensation for repetitive stress injuries, including carpal tunnel syndrome and back problems, that are caused by overuse or misuse over a long period of time. You may also be compensated for some illnesses and diseases that are the gradual result of work conditions-for example, heart conditions, lung disease, and stress-related digestive problems.

As long as your injury is job-related, it's covered. For example, you'll be covered if you are injured while traveling on business, doing a work-related errand, or even attending a required, business-related social function.

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