Your one-stop legal resource for workers' comp, workplace safety and personal injury information

Workers’ Comp Laws That Every American Worker Needs to Know

workers’ compensation benefits

Regardless of the state in which you live, there are some fundamental workers’ compensation laws you should know. Below, we review several basic fundamental rules.

What is workers’ compensation and how does it work?

Workers’ compensation laws are designed to provide protection to employees in the event of work-related accidents, injuries, disease or illness. These benefits provide coverage for loss of income as well as reimbursement for medical expenses. In most states, this compensation is mandatory.

The following should be kept in mind regarding workers’ compensation benefits.

Workers’ comp is a no-fault system

This means that fault is typically not taken into consideration when applying for benefits. In other words, it doesn’t matter if an employee is deemed to have been negligent and that negligence resulted in their injury at work. The employee may still be eligible to receive benefits.

Injury must occur in the course and scope of employment

In order to qualify for workers’ compensation benefits, the injury must have taken place in the course of the worker’s employment. Employees cannot claim workers’ compensation benefits for an injury that occurred outside the scope of their employment. Independent contractors are usually not covered under workers’ compensation coverage.

Lost-wage benefits typically cover a portion of your wages

Workers’ compensation benefits will not replace your entire salary. In most states, workers’ compensation benefits cover up to two-thirds of the worker’s average wage.

Compensation is provided by a state agency

A state agency is responsible for administering workers’ compensation benefits in all states.

Deadlines apply for filing claims

Deadlines, also called statutes of limitations, apply when filing workers’ compensation claims and vary by state. Therefore, it’s imperative that employees who are injured on the job make sure they notify their employer and file claims in a timely manner.

Workers may not sue their employer

In most cases, employees can’t sue their employer for a workplace injury. Essentially, in exchange for workers’ compensation benefits, workers give up their right to sue an employer for any injury covered by workers’ comp benefits.

However, an employee may be able to bring a lawsuit against a 3rd party if the negligence of that 3rd party led to their injury in the workplace.

Not all employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance

Rules about which employers are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance vary depending on the state. In some instances, employees may be covered under a system other than workers’ comp.

Federal employees, for example, are covered under the Federal Employees' Compensation Act (FECA). Railroad workers are covered under the Federal Employers' Liability Act (FELA), and longshoremen and dock workers are covered under the Longshore and Harbor Workers' Compensation Act (LHWCA).

Should employers voluntarily participate in workers’ compensation?

Even employers who aren’t legally required to participate in a workers’ compensation program may find there are benefits to voluntarily participating.

Among the primary advantages is the ability of an employer to limit their liability in the event an employee is injured on the job. In such instances, the injured employee is restricted to only those remedies offered through workers’ compensation and will not be able to sue their employer.

Additionally, employers may find it much easier to plan for disability coverage in the event that an employee becomes disabled or is unable to work following an injury.

Employers should be aware that there may be some disadvantages associated with voluntarily participating in a workers’ compensation program too. Disadvantages may include rising premiums for employers with high accident records and the need for additional time to file and manage workers’ compensation claims.

Steps to take after a workplace accident occurs

When an accident occurs at work and an employee is injured, employers should take 2 important steps as soon as possible.

Ensure the injured worker receives medical attention

Employers should make certain injured employees receive medical attention. In some instances, this may include accompanying the employee to receive medical attention or first aid.

Also, employers should recognize that all injuries should be treated as legitimate. While it’s possible that an injury claim could be false, it’s in the employer’s best interest  to initially treat all claims as if they’re completely accurate.

File an accident report

Employers should make certain an accident report is filed with the workers’ compensation agency in their state as soon as possible. While each state may have different reporting requirements, it’s important to make sure that reports are filed promptly.

Reports should be written within 24 hours of the incident occurring. Employers should also make a point of following up with the injured employee.

While employers do have quite a bit of protection under workers’ compensation coverage from being sued by their employees, there are some instances when employers can be sued. For instance, if an employer fails to file the required reports in order to prevent employees from receiving the workers’ compensation benefits to which they’re entitled, employers could leave themselves open to litigation.

To ensure this doesn’t happen, employers should respond to all injured employees in a timely manner. This includes obtaining facts associated with the incident and making sure the employee is informed of their eligibility to receive compensation for their injuries.

How long does it take to receive workers’ comp benefits?

It’s the responsibility of the state agency governing workers’ compensation benefits to determine whether an employee is entitled to receive benefits. In the event there’s a dispute regarding a workers’ compensation claim, it may be possible to appeal.

Employees typically won’t receive payments for benefits until after a waiting period. This waiting period varies among states but typically ranges from 3 to 7 days.

Workers' Compensation Law Firm Profiles


R. Mack Babcock

Meet Colorado Workers' Compensation, Personal Injury
and Insurance Dispute Attorney R. Mack Babcock

Prior to founding The Babcock Law Firm, LLC, R. Mack Babcock spent many years on the other side of workers' compensation, car accidents, personal injury and insurance disputes representing some of the largest insurance companies and corporations in Colorado as an attorney at a midsize insurance defense firm.

Babcock is a member of the Colorado and Denver Bar Associations, the Colorado Trial Lawyers Association and the Workers' Compensation Educational Association. In early 2008, he was elected as the Colorado House District 43 Committee Chairperson for the Douglas County Colorado Democratic Party.

In connection with this position, he is responsible for finding a candidate(s) to run for House District 43, overseeing the campaign(s), organizing volunteers, and also sits on the executive committee for the Douglas County Democratic Party.

Gerber & Holder Workers' Compensation Attorneys

Meet Atlanta's Top Workers' Compensation and Work Injury Attorneys

In 2018, two widely respected attorneys joined forces to establish Gerber & Holder Attorneys at Law, an Atlanta-based workers' compensation law firm dedicated to protecting injured workers in Georgia. Together, Ben Gerber and Thomas Holder bring an impressive resume of combined skills, knowledge, resources and experience to work for individuals suffering from a work-related accident such as back and neck injuries, spinal cord trauma, head and brain injuries, construction accidents, car accidents, truck accidents and other catastrophic injuries.

Both attorneys have an impressive history of success in workers' compensation cases with over 50 years of combined experience practicing law in Georgia. Their accomplishments include recognitions from Super Lawyers, the Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, AV Martindale-Hubbell, Avvo, the Atlanta Bar Association, Knights of the Bar, the Lawyers' Foundation of Georgia and others. Ben Gerber also appeared as a guest on the radio show Atlanta Legal Experts. He's also an active member of the Georgia Workers’ Compensation Claimant’s Lawyers (WCCL) board, Georgia Trial Lawyers Association, Atlanta Bar Association and the Atlanta Volunteer Lawyers Foundation.