Workers’ compensation is a state-mandated insurance program that provides compensation to employees who suffer job-related injuries and illnesses. While the federal government administers a workers’ comp program for federal and certain other types of employees, each state has its own laws and programs for workers’ compensation. For up-to-date information on workers’ comp in your state, contact your state’s workers’ compensation office. (You can find links to the appropriate office in your state on the State Workers’ Compensation Officials page of the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.)
In general, an employee with a work-related illness or injury can get workers’ compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault — the employee, the employer, a coworker, a customer, or some other third party. In exchange for these guaranteed benefits, employees usually do not have the right to sue the employer in court for damages for those injuries.
In most states, employers are required to purchase insurance for their employees from a workers’ compensation insurance company (also called an insurance carrier). In some states, however, very small companies (with fewer than three or four employees) are not required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. In some states, larger companies that are clearly financially stable are allowed to act as their own workers’ compensation insurance companies (also called self-insuring).
When a worker is injured, his or her claim is filed with the insurance company or self-insuring employer, which pays medical and disability benefits according to a state-approved formula.