What is Workers Compensation Insurance?

February 23, 2018

Employers are legally obligated to take reasonable care to assure that their workplaces are safe. Nevertheless, accidents happen. When they do, workers compensation insurance provides coverage.
 
Workers compensation insurance serves two purposes: It assures that injured workers get medical care and compensation for a portion of the income they lose while they are unable to return to work and it usually protects employers from lawsuits by workers injured while working. 

 

Workers receive benefits regardless of who was at fault in the accident. If a worker is killed while working, workers comp (as it is often abbreviated) provides death benefits for the worker’s dependents.

 

What Injuries are Covered?

Injuries employees sustain on the workplace premises or anywhere else while the employee is acting in the “course and scope” of employment are covered if their employer has workers comp insurance. For example, the leading cause of workers comp death claims is traffic accidents that occur when the employee is in a vehicle for work purposes, whether the trip is made in the company’s car or the employee’s own vehicle. Accidents driving to and from work are not covered.

 

In addition to injuries from accidents, workers comp covers injuries employees may sustain from other events that may occur while they are working, including workplace violence, terrorist attacks and natural disasters.

 

Workers comp insurance also covers certain illnesses and occupational diseases (defined in the state statutes) contracted as a result of employment. For example, employees who work with toxic chemicals can be made ill by exposure to the chemicals.

 

What Treatment Do Injured Workers Receive?

Injured workers receive all medically necessary and appropriate treatment. With medical costs soaring, many states have adopted measures designed to rein in expenditures. These include utilization management guidelines, which describe acceptable treatment protocols and diagnostic tests for specific injuries.

 

What Benefits Do Injured Workers Receive?

Income replacement benefits are based on whether the disability is total or partial and whether it is permanent or temporary. Impairment is generally defined as a reduction in earnings capacity, sometimes using the American Medical Association’s criteria.

 

Most states require that benefits be paid for the duration of the disability, but some specify a maximum number of weeks, particularly for temporary disabilities. The benefit amount is a percentage of the worker’s weekly wage (actual or state average).

 

Who Sells Workers Comp Insurance?

Workers comp insurance is NOT part of your Businessowners Policy (BOP). It must be purchased as a separate insurance policy.

 

Each state has its own rules about where employers may buy workers comp insurance. In a few states all employers must buy their workers comp insurance from a state monopoly insurer, known as a state fund. In a number of other states, insurance may be purchased from the state fund or from private insurers. In the states that have them, state funds may serve as an insurer of last resort for businesses that cannot find coverage from a private insurer.

 

How Are Premiums Set?

Premiums are based on the employer’s industry classification code and payroll. Premiums for the most dangerous enterprises, such as trash hauling or logging, may be much higher than premiums for an accounting firm.

 

Employers with an annual premium above a certain amount are usually eligible for experience rating, which adjusts the premium up or down depending on the claims history of the company relative to other companies in that industry category. Businesses with higher than average claims will pay a higher premium and those with lower claims will generally pay less.

 

Experience rating is more sensitive to the number of claims (loss frequency) than the dollar value of claims (loss severity). This is because of the insurance industry maxim, “frequency breeds severity.” Insurers know from experience that where more accidents occur, there is a greater likelihood of big losses. A greater number of accidents indicates that overall in working conditions are not as safe as an environment where fewer accidents occur, even if in a given year the few accidents that occurred were more costly.

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