How Workers’ Compensation Works

workers compensation

Joe Johnson worked for Harrington’s, a printing company and clocked in every Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. One Friday morning, Joe received an email from the owner of the company telling him that an all-expense paid event was scheduled for that afternoon at a recreational facility where the employees would play games, eat, and play flag football. The owner explained that the event was part of the company’s team building efforts and everyone was expected to attend. However, employees could choose to stay at work. As the team lead in his department, Joe felt pressured to attend the event and to encourage all the team members to do the same. 

While the employees were eating, Harrington’s owner assigned the employees to teams and gave them all a pep talk about the importance of working as a team. He stressed that he loved winners and wanted then to show him their best efforts. Prizes were going to be awarded for the winning teams. While running for a touchdown, Joe tripped and fell, injuring his right side. Despite his injury, Joe remained at the event until 5:00 p.m. and received his normal pay for the day. He went to the hospital on the way home from work where they found a rib fracture and a punctured lung. Because Joe was off work for a few weeks after a surgery, he exhausted his sick time and vacation time. 

Joe filed a workers’ compensation claim, which the employer and the insurance company contested because Joe’s injury did not arise out of or in the course of his employment. Based on what you know about workers’ compensation, would you agree that Joe was not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits? 

Workers’ Compensation in Action 

Today, under a statutory (written law) system, workers’ receive compensation for job-related injuries without having to challenge an employer, and regardless of whether or not the employer was at fault. Statutory workers’ compensation benefits are the exclusive remedy for many types of work-related injuries, but they guarantee that benefits will be paid. It took a major shift in social priorities and public policies to bring about the change. 

In Joe Johnson’s case, an administrative law judge (ALJ) heard the case and found that Joe felt pressured to attend the event even though attendance at the employer-sponsored event was not mandatory. The claim was compensable and Joe was awarded benefits for a work disability. 

Workers’ compensation covers both injuries that are specific as to time and place as well as injuries that occur over a period of time. Injuries that occur because of doing the same type of work over and over and causing strain on the body parts involved are called cumulative trauma. Cumulative trauma is often the result of repetitive work that over time results in injuries, especially back injuries and wrist injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Want to know more about worker’s compensation insurance? Click here to view our Workers’ Compensation Insurance continuing education classes.

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