Workers' Compensation Eligibility: Determining If An Injury Is Work-Related
In order to receive workers' compensation benefits, you must have a work-related illness or injury. Of course, like many rules that seem simple on the surface, things get more complicated when money is involved. To know whether you're eligible for benefits, you have to determine whether your injury is really "work-related" – which means knowing exactly what that phrase means.
In order for an injury or illness to be work-related, you need to be able to argue that it happened either at work or during an activity that was part of your work. For determining whether something happened "at work," you're basing your argument on location. An injury at any job site, whether permanent or temporary, would be eligible for workers' compensation during working hours.
However, there are some other locations that you might not think of as "at work" that might also be eligible. Company functions, for instance, such as picnics, holiday parties, or retreats can also be eligible locations, especially if attendance is mandatory. Even if attendance is not mandatory, if you can argue that you are expected to attend or that not attending might affect your job, these events become work-related.
Even if you're not at a work location, you may be eligible if you are doing something for work. For example, if your boss asks you to walk to an office supply store and mail some packages and you are injured while walking there, you're performing a job task, so your injury is work-related.
One of the most complicated areas for a workers' compensation argument is when an injury occurred at work but during a non-work activity. Many arguments come into play in these situations, lots of them based on specific state laws. Some states, for instance, have exceptions for voluntary recreational programs; if you're injured while playing on the company softball team, you're out of luck.
On the other hand, if your boss told you that you had to join the team (or hinted at it strongly enough that you could reasonably believe it), playing on the team became related to your job, and your injury would be covered.
What Do To Next
Because the state laws vary so much, it's important to know what rules are relevant to you. The U.S. Department of Labor keeps a library of links to each state's worker's compensation program, which is a good place to start.
In addition, if you think your injury or illness might be eligible, you should know that you have a limited window to inform your employer and begin a claim. So make an appointment to discuss your circumstances with a workers' compensation attorney as soon as possible.
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