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How do I determine whether an injury or illness is work-related for the purposes of worker's compensation?

Mitchell Allen
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Mitchell Allen is the founder and CEO of the Debt Education Certification Foundation, an organization that provides credit counseling certificates and debtor education courses for those who are filing for bankruptcy. He’s also the founder of legal services marketing agency LeadRival. He’s the author of numerous books on debt and bankruptcy.

Mitchell is not an attorney and his answers should not be considered legal advice. Please consult with an attorney about your legal situation. Full Bio

Q:

How do I determine whether an injury or illness is work-related for the purposes of worker's compensation?

A:

You may go to your job every day with every intention of being safe and productive. However, even with your best care, you could still suffer an injury or illness at work. If you become sick or suffer an injury that you believe to be work-related, you might wonder how you can know for sure, particularly if you plan to file a worker’s compensation claim. You can make the claim with confidence and know that your medical condition is indeed tied to your employment by keeping these facts in mind.


If You Become Injured or Ill on the Job

If you become sick or suffer an injury because of an accident at work, your condition is related directly to your employment. Whether you fall off a ladder while stocking shelves, slip and fall on a wet floor in the bathroom, or become ill while using products to clean stoves, shelves, or other fixtures at work, you have a strong argument to prove that your job caused your condition.


Injuries or Illnesses Suffered Outside of the Workplace

Even if you are not on the job at the time of your accident, you could still make the claim that your job made you sick or injured you in some way. For example, if you are in a car accident while traveling for work-related purposes, you could file a worker’s compensation claim and have your medical bills and loss of income covered.


Likewise, if you are hurt or sickened while attending a company event like a party or corporate meeting, you could also make a claim for compensation. If you are on company time in any way while away from your physical workplace, your injuries or illness might be covered by your employer’s insurance.


Pre-Existing Conditions and Employer Negligence

Your employer may also be responsible for your care and monetary loss if you were compelled to carry out duties that purposely put you in harm’s way. If, for example, your employer knows that you have a bad back, yet told you to lift heavy boxes anyway, you could file a claim for your hurt back.


Similarly, if your employer tells you to work around unsafe chemicals knowing that you are pregnant, you could file a claim if you go into pre-term labor or if you suffer another pregnancy complication because of your employer’s negligence.


Slow Developing Injuries and Your Rights

Believe it or not, injuries such as arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome can fall under a workers’ compensation claim, and are actually bona fide injuries that your employer will be liable for if it is determined that the job caused your injury. For instance, just because you are working at a desk job doesn’t mean you can’t be injured. This type of injury can be slow to develop, and a work area that is not designed to be ergonomic to you can cause you injury after a period of time.


Is your employer and their insurer responsible for this injury? Yes, if it is medically proven that the injury is a direct result of the actions taken at work or in connection to a work-related injury, the workers' compensation insurance must cover the injury.


It is the obligation of the employer and their insurer to make sure that the employee receives the proper medical care and necessities to treat this disorder. Anyone who is suffering from arthritis, carpal tunnel or other disorders and can relate them back to a previous injury or a required task at work could file a workers’ compensation claim.


It is also a good idea to contact a professional workers’ compensation attorney or personal injury attorney after any serious or long occurring injury because the employer and the employer's attorney may try to limit their liability at your expense. Some may even participate in what is known as employers bad faith conduct and bargaining practices, where they will try to prove they have no liability regarding your injuries.


Employees should not have to fear getting sick or hurt on the job. If you are involved in an accident or become ill while at work, you can make a claim if you can prove that your condition is related to your employment.





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