Seeking Workers’ Compensation Benefits in Connecticut
In 2010, an explosion at a Connecticut power plant under construction killed six and injured about 50 workers. Every year there are many others hurt or sickened on the job in smaller, quieter accidents and incidents. In a floundering economy, these workers are relying on workers’ compensation to receive the benefits for medical treatment and lost wages that they need.
Brief History of Workers’ Compensation Laws
The enactment of the Federal Employers’ Liability Act (FELA) of 1906 marked the beginning of a shift in the way America provides compensation for its injured workers – away from requiring workers injured on the job to prove employer fault in lawsuits and toward workers’ compensation no-fault laws. While FELA applied only to railroad employees, two years later Congress extended workers’ compensation coverage to federal civilian employees in unusually risky jobs with the Federal Employee’s Compensation Act. The act was later expanded to benefit most federal civilian employees.
Connecticut enacted its workers’ compensation law in 1913; the basic structure of that law survives to date, despite subsequent revisions and modifications. By 1949, all states had enacted workers’ compensation legislation intended to provide compensation to those injured on the job regardless of fault. Workers now have the benefit of pursuing compensation administratively under a no-fault system but have given up many claims for this right. It is important to note that not all claims are forfeited and under certain conditions, workers may have a valid claim against their employer or a third party.
Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act
The Connecticut Workers’ Compensation Act provides benefits such as medical treatment and wage replacement for many types of workers injured on the job or suffering from occupational disease. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system of insurance, meaning that private insurers or self-insured employers pay benefits to injured employees regardless of fault. With few exceptions:
- Full-time and part-time employees are covered under the act
- Minors are covered under the act
- Non-citizens are all covered workers under the act
- Coverage may not be waived
Compensation may be available for medical treatment, weekly benefits while the worker remains injured and vocational rehabilitation when necessary. Additional benefits may be available for scarring, disfigurement and permanent physical injury. Benefits are not available to compensate for injuries resulting from abuse of alcohol or controlled substances.
Workers who are injured on the job should report their injury to the employer immediately. The employer should file a form with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. Waiting to report will delay submission of the “Employer’s First Report of Occupational Injury or Illness” form and may increase the chance the claim will ultimately be disputed.
The employer should also provide the employee with medical treatment. Whether at the company medical facility, a walk-in clinic, hospital or designated physician, the injured worker should seek prompt medical treatment. If the employer has a designated medical provider, the worker must accept such initial treatment.
It is important that injured workers file an official written Notice of Claim for Compensation. This 30C Form should be filed as soon as possible; after the deadline has passed for filing an official claim for either injury or illness, a claim cannot be brought. An accident or incident report filed with the employer does not satisfy the statutory requirement of a written notice of claim.
After a worker files an official claim, the insurer or self-insured employer may either deny the claim or begin paying benefits without prejudice within 28 calendar days. If the injury or illness disables the worker for more than three days and the claim is not denied, the insurer or employer must issue a Voluntary Agreement (VA). The VA is the employer’s acceptance of the claim and an agreement to provide workers’ compensation benefits. Injured workers should review any VA carefully and then sign if everything is in order.
The claimant may also request the name of the workers’ compensation insurance company from his or her employer. The worker should then follow all instructions from the insurer.
A workers’ compensation attorney can provide invaluable assistance to injured workers seeking benefits as a result of a work injury or occupational disease. Additionally, some employees may have a claim against third parties who are responsible for their injury or illness and a limited number of employees may have a court claim against their employer if the employee intended to cause them injury. A lawyer can counsel employees regarding the strength of any such claims.