Workers’ compensation programs are generally available to most American workers in one form or another. At the same time, the particular workers' compensation program that covers a certain worker may vary depending on the geographic location of the worker’s employer, the nature of the worker’s industry, the number of workers the business employs, and the position held by the employee. While most workers receive coverage under their state workers’ compensation programs, workers employed by the federal government receive coverage under a federal workers’ compensation program, and those employed in the railroad industry receive coverage under a separate workers’ compensation program designed just for them.
Each state has a separate workers’ compensation program with different eligibility requirements and coverage criteria. A workplace injury may be fully compensable under one state’s workers' comp program but may not be equally compensable under another state’s program. Typically, state workers’ compensation programs do place some limits on the situations and types of employees covered. For instance, most state workers’ compensation programs exclude injuries caused by an employee being under the influence of alcohol or drugs in the workplace.
State workers’ compensation programs generally also exclude injured workers from recovering damages for pain and suffering. Additionally, many states altogether exclude temporary workers, independent contractors, and casual workers from workers’ compensation benefits. Other states do not provide coverage for employees of businesses that only employ a small number of workers.
Federal government employees, on the other hand, do not receive coverage under state workers’ compensation programs; the federal government maintains a separate workers' comp program specifically for federal employees. Likewise, railroad employees enjoy coverage under a separate workers’ compensation program known as the Federal Employers Liability Act. Although workers in the construction industry do receive coverage under state workers’ compensation laws, applicable state workers’ compensation laws may affect their ability to recover damages from the various potentially responsible parties.
The possibility of different workers’ compensation programs affecting employees’ rights to seek damages for workplace injuries means employees should consult an experienced workers' compensation lawyer for advice. Workers’ compensation laws also are likely to impact a worker’s right to bring a lawsuit against his or her employer as a result of a workplace injury. Therefore, workers compensation awareness is essential for any American worker in any type of industry.