is a system that requires employers, typically through their insurance companies, to pay lost wages, medical expenses, and certain other benefits to employees who are injured on the job. Because employers pass on the costs of workers’ compensation benefits or insurance premiums in the pricing of their products, consumers ultimately fund the workers’ compensation system.
Workers’ compensation is different from other types of torts in that it is not based on fault or negligence. A worker who is injured due to her own negligence or that of her employer typically is entitled to the same workers’ compensation benefits as a worker whose injury did not result from negligence at all. The idea behind workers’ compensation is not to right a wrong or punish negligence; rather, it is away to protect employers from negligence lawsuits and injured workers from destitution. The goal is to return injured employees to work efficiently and economically without damaging the employer’s business.
Workers’ compensation is legislated by every state, and the laws vary among jurisdictions but carry many of the same features. An employee who sustains an occupational disease or personal injury arising out of and in the course of employment is entitled automatically to certain benefits. These benefits may include lost wages, payment of medical treatment, provision of vocational rehabilitation or job placement assistance, and in the case of an employee’s work-related death, benefits to the employee’s dependents. Some workers, such as independent contractors, are excluded from workers’ compensation protection.