Worker’s compensation insurance programs allow employees who are injured in the workplace to receive medical treatment and cash payments as compensation for the losses they suffered.  Worker’s compensation also provides death benefits to families of workers who are killed in workplace accidents.  Worker’s compensation programs are state based.  There is also a federal worker’s compensation program that provides benefit to employees who work for the federal government, or whose jobs involve interstate commerce.  Because each program is established and administered by state governments or the federal government, the rules for each program vary.

In what ways do state programs vary?

State worker’s compensation programs vary in 5 significant ways:  statutory waiting periods, coverage requirements, maximum temporary total disability benefits, compensation rates, and maximum benefit duration’s.  In a worker’s compensation case the statutory waiting period is the number of days that an employee must wait before benefit payments commence.  In states such as California, Iowa and Illinois the waiting period is 3 days, while in New Jersey, Georgia, and Florida the waiting period is 7 days.  Other states have waiting periods of 4 or 5 days.

Coverage requirements refer to the extent to which a private sector employee must carry worker’s compensation insurance.  For example, New Jersey and Texas are the only 2 states in which participation in the state’s worker’s compensation program is not mandatory.  New Jersey, however, does require private employers to either participate in the worker’s compensation program or self-insure.  Most states require that that all private employers with one or more employee must participate.  Some states have the requirement if the employer has  at least 3, 4 or 5 employees.

The maximum number of weeks for temporary total disability benefits ranges from 104 weeks in Minnesota and Texas to 1000 weeks in Wisconsin, while the maximum number of weeks for both temporary total disability and permanent partial disability benefits ranges from 156 weeks in Massachusetts to 1000 weeks in Wisconsin.  However, several states do not provide a specific number of weeks for benefit duration in their statutes.

A New Jersey worker’s compensation lawyer points out that there is also a wide range in the amount of available compensation for temporary total disability that an  injured worker is eligible to receive.  Iowa offers the highest payment of up to $1103 per week while Mississippi pays out the lowest of $331.06 per week.  However, the amount that a worker receives is typically based on his or her pre-injury earnings.  The range is between 66 2/3%  of earnings in the majority of states to 80% of earnings for Alaska.

Which state is the “best” state to file a worker’s compensation claim?

The states that have the most worker-friendly worker’s compensation statutes are Alaska, Iowa, and Wisconsin.  Alaska’s program offers the highest payout based on percentage of salary of 80%.  Iowa’s program offers the highest total weekly payout of $1103 per week.  Wisconsin’s program allows injured workers to receive benefits for the longest period of time of 1000 weeks, which amounts to almost 20 years.  On the other hand the states that are the least worker friendly include Mississippi which only allows weekly benefit payments of up to $331.06 per week, and Minnesota with only allows a maximum of 104 weeks of temporary total disability benefit payments.

However, whether a state is indeed “friendly” also depends on how the plans are in reality administered.  Each state and each insurer used by the state will have different rules for processing worker’s compensation claims.  In some cases the process may be very simple and straightforward with payments typically commencing relatively quickly.  Other states may have processes that are more complicated, resulting in delays and denials.  Accordingly, it is important for workers to understand their rights under their state’s worker’s compensation program, and what they need to do to ensure they receive the maximum benefits to which they are entitled in a timely fashion.

Do you think that it is fair that different benefits would be available to similarly situated injured employees merely because they were injured in different states?

Staff (63 Posts)