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What is workers' compensation?

For many workers in Florida, workers' compensation provides the assurance that if they are injured on the job, they will be able to remain financially functional. But, what is workers' compensation, and how much does it really cover?

Workers' compensation is a type of insurance plan that most employers are required to have. One of the reasons workers' compensation was established is to limit the need for litigation when an employee is hurt on the job, but the presences of a compensation plan doesn't automatically mean there won't be a need for legal remedies as well.

Unlike general personal injury claims, workers' compensation doesn't require an injured party to show that someone else was negligent or at fault in the injury. As long as injuries occurred in the normal course of work, then workers' compensation will kick in to provide a fixed compensation amount. Also unlike general claims, workers' compensation is usually limited; while workers' compensation is in place to protect workers, the limitations on payouts are meant to protect employers.

In most cases, workers' compensation is provided via a third-party company. The exception is some federal and government jobs or specialty injuries, where workers' compensation may be provided by a federal program, such as the Merchant Marine Act or Black Lung Benefits Act.

Workers' compensation coverage may include payments for medical expenses, wage replacement and job training. Things such as pain and suffering are not generally covered under a workers' compensation plan. In some cases, employers and plans may balk at making payouts by arguing that an injury didn't occur within the normal course of work or was due to a preexisting condition. In these cases, an individual has a right to seek outside legal assistance with the case.

Source: Cornell University Law School, "Workers' Compensation: an overview" Dec. 18, 2014

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