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Cynthia Early managed a Damon’s restaurant during the 1990s that required major renovations. What Early did not realize at the time became a major workers’ compensation case. Asbestos in the ceiling insulation caused several of the restaurant workers to incur lingering respiratory illnesses. After one of the works sought medical attention, the cause of the health problems and hence, the root of the workers’ compensation claims, came to light. “I though I knew everything about running a restaurant,” said Early. “But workers’ compensation laws opened a new door that I had to walk through.”
Workers’ compensation cases have increased over the past 10 years, mostly due to the involvement of licensed and experienced employment law attorneys that help clients receive just compensation for injuries and illnesses caused by workplace conditions.
Workers’ Compensation Not Just for Coal Miners
There has been a longstanding misperception that only the truly dangerous jobs qualify for workers of compensation claims caused by accidents or employer negligence. Most workers’ compensation claims must follow a strict set of steps mandated by state law. Whether you succumb to an illness caused by prolonged exposure to toxic chemicals or fall from a ladder during a home improvement project, you might qualify for workers’ compensation in the state where you live.
Workers’ Compensation Eligibility
The first step of any workers’ compensation claim involves determining if you qualify for compensation under state law. Two primary factors determine your workers’ compensation eligibility. First, you have to prove you were employed by an organization at the time you received a serious injury or came down with a debilitating illness. Second, you have to prove that the work environment caused your health issue. Even if you can prove both factors, you still do not gain the peace of mind that you will receive compensation for your work-related health problems. Workers’ compensation never covers injuries or illnesses that a court determines were self-inflicted, such as falling from a scaffold because intoxication.
Employer Liability under Workers’ Compensation Laws
If you prove employer negligence caused you mental and/or physical harm, you can receive just compensation that not only covers medical bills and living expenses, but also the damage caused by pain and suffering. Some states require employers to finance employee rehabilitation programs, if a workplace injury results in loss time of at least 60 workdays. Rehabilitation includes physical improvement and vocational training the helps an employee transition back into the workforce. Employers might also have to cover tuition expenses and the cost of caring for one or more child. A few states require employers to fund unemployment costs, if an employee loses at least 120 workdays of “suitable gainful employment.”
Time Matters in workers’ Compensation Cases
You have probably heard the legal term “Statutes of Limitation” that pertain to criminal cases. The same principle applies to workers’ compensation cases. However, the time window to file workers’ compensation cases is much smaller. To prevent frivolous claims, most states invoke short statutes of limitations. For example, you cannot expect to win a workers’ compensation claim for an incident you insist happened two years ago. Moreover, you must document everything that occurred before, during, and after you incurred an injury or went down with an illness because of a workplace incident or environment.
As you can see, workers’ compensation involves many ambiguous legal terms, such as “suitable gainful employment.” As Cynthia Early can confirm, it takes a licensed employment law attorney who specializes in workers’ compensation cases to clarify the unclear legal terms. If you believe your work environment caused an injury or illness, contact an accomplished employment law attorney today for a free consultation.