Paul F. Nassab
Workers’ compensation laws vary from state to state. These laws are generally governed by the state departments of labor and provide both rights and obligations to employers and employees alike. They may be found on state Web sites.
The workers compensation system was developed to provide protection for both the employee and the employer. The system is set up as a “no fault” system in order to provide the employee with medical care, cover lost wages, and provide for potential future lost wages from an injury.
The system mandates that employers meeting specified requirements self-insure their workers, provide Workers Compensation Insurance through a third party, or pay into a state-funded program. The employer, in return, is protected from lawsuits as payment does not constitute an admission of guilt. The United States Department of Labor Web site, www.dol.gov/index.htm, provides a clear overview of each state’s requirements and exceptions.
Several federal acts exist and serve to protect federal employees. The federal government, through the Federal Employees Compensation Act (FECA) and the Federal Employer’s Liability Act, provides similar benefits for federal employees and those involved in interstate commerce. U.S. Post Office employees and railroad workers are examples of employees so governed. Merchant Mariners are covered by the Jones Act and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act provides workers’ compensation to specified employees of private maritime employers.
The workers compensation process begins with the Occupational Disease or Injury, which is defined as an identifiable disease or injury arising with or without human fault out of and in the course of the employment. The physician is often the person who decides whether an injury is to be considered as work related. The employee receives compensation only when the surgeon makes such a determination.