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The Purpose Of Workers Compensation Laws Is To Pay For Workplace Injuries

By Mike Pendergrast

State laws that address employees hurt while working are usually called workers compensation laws. Before these laws were written, a worker hurt at work would file a traditional lawsuit against their employer to receive payments for their injury. These lawsuits were challenging because the courts weren’t always persuaded that an employer’s negligence caused the worker’s injury. If a court did find for an employee, the employer would be ordered to pay “make whole” damages to the worker. Easing this legal system was the purpose of workers compensation.

Both employers and workers disliked this system. Workers struggled to prove employer fault to conservative courts. Employers did not like the monetary awards made to employees that might require lifetime payments to an injured worker.

With these considerations in mind, states created workers compensation laws to ease resolution of injury disputes. One central element of workers compensation is that these programs are often the only way that an employee can recover for a workplace injury.

As workers compensation laws are state laws, they vary across the country. But generally, the laws have five requirements. Only certain employers and employees are covered. There must have been an injury. That injury must have been the result of an accident. The accident must have arisen out of the employment relationship. And the accident must have occurred in the course of the employment relationship.

Many employers and workers are covered by state workers compensation laws. Various states exclude different occupational classifications (like household employees) or whole industries (like agricultural companies or government). And some exclusions are made based on company size, not including employers with less than three workers for example.

A physical injury is required by most state statutes. Physical is the point here.

A one-time event or accident must have caused the injury. Recent changes in the workplace have led to discussions of this element, and how it should be adapted. Some states have broadened the requirement to include repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel and ergonomics. Other jurisdictions have looked at the role of diseases developed at work, and included them in their workers compensation coverage. (For example, some states cover a hospital worker’s accidental HIV exposure.)

The arising out of employment element looks at the risks of the injury involved. If the risk is clearly associated with the employment context, it is generally said to arise out of the employment. For example, there’s a fair risk of a tree branch falling from a tree and hitting a logger in the head. The same cannot be said for a doctor. The injury would likely arise out of employment for the logger, but probably not the doctor.

And for the injury to have happened in the course of employment, usually the employee has to have been at work when it happened. This is evidenced by being clocked-in, and when and where the injury occurred. But courts will look broadly at all the evidence if the accident took place during a nontraditional employment setting or activity.

If a worker can show that his injury meets all five of the above elements, he will recover monetary damages based on a preset rate included in the workers compensation law.

Because of the subjectivity of some of the above areas, the goal and purpose of workers compensation to expedite recovery and curtail lawsuits has not been met. As such, an injured worker or an employer of an injured worker should seek legal advice for their specific workers compensation questions. Only an attorney fully admitted to your state’s bar can give you appropriate and competent legal advice.

Do you believe you need a workers compensation attorney? If you do, then we know how you can locate workers comp attorneys with only a click of that button. Just check us out and see if you can locate the right ones.

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Article Citation
MLA Style Citation:
Pendergrast, Mike "The Purpose Of Workers Compensation Laws Is To Pay For Workplace Injuries." The Purpose Of Workers Compensation Laws Is To Pay For Workplace Injuries. 6 Jul. 2010. 3 Mar 2016 <>.

APA Style Citation:
Pendergrast, M (2010, July 6). The Purpose Of Workers Compensation Laws Is To Pay For Workplace Injuries. Retrieved March 3, 2016, from

Chicago Style Citation:
Pendergrast, Mike "The Purpose Of Workers Compensation Laws Is To Pay For Workplace Injuries"

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