Filing a workers’ compensation lawsuit: what you need to know
Have you suffered injury or illness as a result of something that happened to you at work? When this happens, many people’s first instinct is to issue a private lawsuit, but this can be expensive or even impossible. In other cases, women especially are persuaded to settle – after all, we’re raised to try to get along without making a fuss – but this can lead to you getting less than you deserve, and can make it harder for you to access additional compensation later if you turn out to have been more badly affected than you originally thought. If you have the option, workers’ compensation is a good way to ensure that your rights are upheld.
Are you eligible?
If you’re a federal employee, you’ll find that you’re protected under a different system, but most state and private sector employees are covered by the workers’ compensation scheme. Domestic workers, some agricultural workers and taxi drivers don’t usually have this protection, and you won’t be covered if you’re self-employed or you own your own company (unless you’re also an employee of that company). Employees of small businesses that are making very little money may not be included.
What does it cost?
The cost of a workers’ compensation lawsuit is difficult to predict because it depends on the complexity of the case and how hard the insurance company decides to fight. A lawyer will be able to advise you on this. Some will work on a no-win, no-fee basis, taking their pay from your winnings, but this can end up costing you more overall. Another option is to get a loan to cover direct legal funding and simply pay this back after the case is over.
What do you need to prove?
In order to make a successful claim, you will need to prove that your injury or illness occurred in the context of your work, and you will need to demonstrate how it has affected you. What you won’t need to do is prove that your employer is to blame. This is a no-fault system, which makes it much easier to win and means that your employer will often help you build your case.
Do you need a lawyer?
Strictly speaking, you don’t need to have a lawyer to make a claim, and some people decide to go it alone. This is very risky, however, because there are many highly technical aspects of claiming, and even if you have a strong case, you could lose it on a technicality.
What can you expect to receive?
If you are awarded compensation, the amount will depend on a number of factors. It will cover your medical costs and any wages you have missed out on if you’ve been unable to work. It may cover the cost of help to enable you to return to work or get back to normal in day-to-day life. And, it may also include money for you to live on until you’re able to fully participate in your work duties again or, if you will never again be well enough to work, money to help you in the long term.
Workers’ compensation is there to ensure that you’re fairly treated, so don’t miss out.