The worker's compensation system is designed to compensate injured workers without clogging up the court system with lawsuits by employees. Most employers are required to purchase worker's compensation insurance and most employee injuries are covered by the system. Some crucial exceptions exist, however, and this article looks at situations where worker's compensation coverage does not apply.
Workers in certain jobs do not qualify for state-sponsored worker's compensation programs. Federal workers have their own system, which is overseen by the federal government. Railroads workers, seamen on navigable rivers and longshoremen have their own compensation systems as well. Also, some types of employment, such as domestic work, may not be covered, depending on state law.
To qualify for worker's compensation, you must be an employee, not performing work as an independent contractor. There is no single factor that determines whether a person is an employee or not. The Internal Revenue Service, however, looks at several things, such as whether the the worker has a contract and receives benefits such as a retirement plan. The IRS also considers whether the business controls how the work is performed and if the business reimburses expenses.
If your injury or illness is not work-related, then it's not covered by your state's worker's compensation program. Sometimes, though, it's not easy to determine if an injury is related to work. Perhaps you were injured on the job, but you were impaired at the time due to alcohol or drugs. In this case, the worker's compensation officials may decide that you are at fault and are not entitled to any benefits. Also, if you injury occurs due to misconduct on your part, it might or might not be covered, depending on the specific circumstances.
Another key exception involves volunteers of nonprofit corporations. This is a gray area of worker's compensation eligibility, and state laws vary a great deal. Certain states make all nonprofit volunteer workers ineligible. Other states classify nonprofit volunteers into different categories and require nonprofits to cover some types of volunteers, but not others.
Although you are most likely covered by your state's worker's compensation regulations in the event of an accident on the job, some important exceptions need to be kept in mind. Worker's compensation is complex and it's not a good idea to try and navigate this complicated process on your own. If you are injured on the job, contact an attorney-- like a workers compensation lawyer-- who focuses on this area of the law.