Workers' Compensation Benefits in Today's Economy

Today's economy is volatile, to put it mildly. Even established and formerly-profitable businesses are finding themselves in financial hardship. Many companies are being forced into bankruptcy.

If you have been injured on the job, you already have enough to worry about. Unfortunately, if you were injured while working for one of these struggling companies, you may now be concerned about the effect that your company's financial challenges will have on your workers' compensation benefits.

Does the Company's Bankruptcy Affect Work Comp Benefits?

One common concern among workers is that a bankruptcy filing may put an end to workers' compensation benefits. For many injured workers, workers' comp provides money desperately needed to cover medical expenses and monthly bills until the employee can return to work.

Generally speaking, a bankruptcy filing should not affect your receipt of work comp payments. The payments you receive are actually coming from your employer's workers' compensation insurance provider, not the company itself. Provided your employer was current on the insurance premiums at the time of the bankruptcy filing, your benefit amounts and the payment schedule will not change; the company's financial strains are irrelevant. Even if your employer had let the worker's compensation insurance lapse, you may have other sources of benefits, and your employer will likely face hefty civil fines and criminal sanctions.

If I am Laid Off, Will My Workers' Compensation Payments Stop?

Another unfortunate side effect of the recent economic downturn is that companies are laying off workers in record numbers in an attempt to cut costs. If you are out of work due to an on-the-job injury at the time you are laid off though, your benefits should not change.

Likewise, if you had returned to work but are under medically-recommended physical restrictions, your benefits also should not be affected. If the payments have changed for some reason following a layoff, you may need to petition the court for reinstatement of lost wage benefits.

Even if you are currently working with no medical restrictions following an injury and are laid off, you may still be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. If you are not on restrictions but are receiving benefits at the time of layoffs, the workers' compensation insurance carrier must continue to pay reasonable and necessary medical expenses related to your work injury.

If you are placed on restrictions that would prevent you from returning to your regular job, even after a layoff, you may be able to file for lost wage benefits. For example, if you have surgery for a work-related injury after you are laid off, you will likely be unable to work as you recover. Accordingly, you can file a reinstatement petition to obtain benefits during this time.

If you have been injured on the job, it is vital that you inform your employer to document the incident, even if you think the injury is not serious. If left untreated, even seemingly minor injuries may result in permanent disability. Reporting an injury is particularly important if you have reason to suspect that you may be laid off. Should you file an injury report after a layoff, the claim will likely be rejected; it could appear that you are only seeking benefits in retaliation.

Any work-related injury can be stressful. The added strain of wondering if your employer's bankruptcy filing or being laid off will affect on your workers' compensation benefits can make your recovery even harder. Fortunately, workers' compensation laws incorporate strong protections for injured workers, even when company's face difficult financial times.

These are complicated issues, and it important to ensure that you are taking the proper steps to protect your rights and interests. Speak with a workers' compensation attorney to discuss your personal situation and ensure that your interests are protected.