Workers Compensation is a type of insurance carried by employers, to provide reimbursement for medical treatment when an employee is injured while working. The right to this reimbursement is conditioned on the employee forfeiting his or her right to file a lawsuit against the employer, relating to the work-related injury. These laws, which differ from one state to the next, were designed so that an employee is entitled to health care benefits, with having to prove who was at fault for the injuries. Some clients ask, “do I have to file a workers comp claim?” The answer is no. But, you need to understand the consequences of that decision.
The legal reasoning behind the Workers Compensation System
Before Workers Compensation laws were created, an employee who became sick or injured while at work would need to hire an attorney and file a lawsuit against his or her employer in order to receive compensation. Now, an employee can agree not to sue the employer, in exchange for health care benefits for that injury. The only catch is that the injury must have arisen “out of the course of employment,” meaning the injury occurred while performing the duties of your job, or the disease or illness was caused by conditions at your workplace.
You can file a lawsuit instead, but you will waive your right to Workers comp benefits
You always have the right to choose not to file a worker’s comp claim, and instead sue your employer. However, you will waive your rights to workers comp benefits. So, you can’t change your mind once you have filed your lawsuit. Choosing the litigation route may be a better option, depending on your situation. So, discuss your case with a worker’s compensation attorney. If you are successful with your lawsuit, you may receive a wide range of damages, including punitive damages, medical expenses, lost wages, pain and suffering, and mental anguish.
There are time limits for filing a Workers Comp claim
While you may still be weighing your options, understand that there are strict time limits for filing a workers compensation claim. In Missouri, the claim form must be received either:
- within two years from the date of injury or death, or within two years from the last payment made on account of the injury or death by the employer or its worker’s compensation insurance carrier, whichever is later; OR
- if the employer does not timely file a First Report of Injury, within three years from the date of injury or death or within three years from the last
Under Arkansas law, your workers comp claim must be filed within two (2) years from the date of injury or death, or one year from the date of last payment of compensation. Make sure you determine the deadline that is applicable to you, as soon as you are injured. Make your decision about which route to take before your rights.
If you have questions regarding Worker’s Comp claims, or any other Worker’s Compensation issues, call the Cottrell Law Office at (888) 433-4861.
He is licensed to practice law in the United States District Court for the District of Kansas, eastern Arkansas, western Arkansas, and western Missouri. He was Deputy Prosecuting Attorney in Crawford County, Kansas from 1987-1989.
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