If you are injured on the job, Mississippi’s workers’ compensation system allows you to receive quick medical and disability benefits. However, the state system has many wrinkles which can be confusing for injured workers to navigate. Read on to learn more about what compensation you can receive and what deadlines you must meet.
Not All Employees become Covered by Workers’ Compensation
According to state law, the following are exempt:
- Any business that has fewer than 5 employees
- Independent contractors
- Domestic workers
If you fall into one of the above categories and become injured on the job, then meet with a workers’ compensation lawyer to identify your legal options.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits are “No Fault”
Before the rise of worker’s compensation benefits, injured workers typically needed to show proof of injury by their employer’s negligence. In particular, they needed to show how their employer’s carelessness caused an injury. Because employers fought any allegation of negligence, it could take years for injured workers to finally receive compensation for hospital bills and lost wages.
Mississippi decided to streamline this process, with the laudable goal of getting injured workers compensation much quicker. To that end, Mississippi adopted the current system that requires most employers to buy workers’ compensation insurance.
Under the current system, workers no longer need to show that their employer is at fault for the injuries to receive compensation. Instead, all an employee needs to show is that they suffered from an injury in the ordinary course and scope of their employment.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits Cover Medical and Other Expenses
If you become injured on the job, you can typically qualify for the following benefits:
- Medical services
- Medical supplies
- Partial replacement of lost wages
- Rehabilitation services
If a worker dies, then the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer will pay a death benefit to survivors in addition to money to cover funeral expenses.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits are Skimpy
Although you can typically receive benefits quickly, you will not receive full compensation for your injuries. In particular, workers’ compensation benefits only pay up to two-thirds of your full salary, meaning a full third is not covered. This is just one of the many downsides of the workers’ compensation system.
Workers’ compensation benefits are also limited in duration—even if you are permanently disabled because of a workplace accident. Disabled workers generally can receive benefits for a maximum of 450 weeks, or roughly 9 years. If a worker became permanently disabled when they are young, they might stop receiving workers’ compensation benefits in their 30s or 40s. They will need to find other sources of support for the remainder of their lives.
Furthermore, the death/dependency benefits last only 450 weeks as well. Families with young children will have to scramble to replace the lost income they were depending on.
You Cannot Sue Your Employer
Another drawback to the state’s workers’ compensation scheme is that injured employees become prohibited from suing their employer for their injuries. This means that your employer can be at fault for your injuries because they violated state or federal safety regulations, but they don’t have to pay you anything for their negligence. This might sound unfair, but it is the system that Mississippi has adopted.
You Might Be Able to Bring a Third-Party Lawsuit
Although you cannot sue your employer, you might be able to sue another person or business if they are responsible for your injuries. For example, you might be able to bring a lawsuit in the following situations:
- You suffered an injury from a defective product. If so, you might sue the product manufacturer.
- A customer or vendor injured you. If so, you can sue the person or business responsible.
- You are injured by a member of the public while working your job. For example, you might make deliveries as part or your job and get in a car accident. In this situation, you can typically sue the person who injured you.
If you bring a successful third-party claim, you can receive full compensation for your injuries. Our clients have successfully recovered:
- Full past, present, and future lost wages
- Any medical expenses not covered by workers’ compensation
- Pain and suffering
The compensation you can receive in a third-party lawsuit can be substantial. For example, someone permanently disabled can receive all of the compensation they reasonably expected to earn for the rest of their working life. Someone with particularly serious injuries might also qualify for pain and suffering damages, which can also be substantial. Because so much money is at stake, it is worth your time to identify whether you have a valid claim against a third party for your injuries.
Injured Employees Must Meet Important Deadlines
The workers’ compensation system might be streamlined, but this does not mean it is “easy” for injured workers to get benefits. Instead, those workers must meet strict deadlines:
- You must report your injuries to your employer within 30 days
- You must make a claim within two years of your injuries
To protect your rights, you should seek medical attention immediately. Also remember to tell your doctor that the injury is workplace-related, although you do not need to go into detail about how you sustained the injury.
Your Initial Claim Might be Denied
Because workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, a common misconception is that everyone who applies for benefits receives them. This is not true. In fact, a good percentage of claims are denied every year. Some insurers claim that injuries are not sufficiently serious to qualify for compensation even though the injured worker feels intense pain and cannot return to work.
Fortunately, injured workers have the right to an appeal with the Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Commission. To build the strongest case possible, you should work with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney, who can marshal the facts in your favor to prove entitlement of benefits.
Contact a Mississippi Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
If you have recently become injured on the job, you might not know where to turn. At the Harris Law Firm, our team has innumerable injured workers get the compensation they deserve. For a free case evaluation, contact us today by calling 877-714-4171.