The basics: what is workers' compensation?

Employees in almost every sector of the economy have likely heard the term "workers' compensation" at some point in time during their employment. However, the vast majority of workers will never need to make a claim for workers' compensation, so they do not know even the most basic elements of this hugely important protection for workers. For those employees, it is important to begin with the basics: what is "workers' compensation"?

First, it is important to know that workers' compensation comes into play whenever an employee suffers a workplace injury or contracts an illness that is related to the workplace. There is an important distinction to be made between work-related injuries and illness and non-work related injuries and illnesses. The ill or injured worker must be able to show that the injury or illness occurred in direct relation to the employee's work-related duties. Obviously, if an injury or illness cannot be shown to be work-related, the worker will not be able to receive workers' compensation benefits.

Next, our readers may be thinking, "Where does the money come from"? Well, the vast majority of employers are required to have workers' compensation insurance plans. These plans are usually through private companies, and those are the companies that make the payouts when a workers' compensation claim is made.

The last of the most basic elements to understand about workers' compensation is that the injured or ill worker must be able to show that he will not be able to return to work due to the injury or illness. Workers' compensation is intended for workers who will be unable to work for an extended period of time, usually more than a week.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, "Workers' Compensation & the Injured Worker," Accessed Sept. 7, 2015

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