A guide to the rights and responsibilities of injured workers in the Hoosier State
Every state requires certain employers to carry workers' compensation insurance for the purpose of providing benefits to employees who become injured on the job.
Indiana's Workers Compensation Act, which passed in 1915, regulates workers' compensation, including the rights and responsibilities of injured workers. In this article, we'll provide an overview of the Workers' Compensation Act by providing answers to some common questions.
What is workers' compensation?
Workers' compensation is a form of insurance that provides financial benefits to employees who are injured on the job. It is a no-fault insurance system, meaning injured workers can receive benefits regardless of who's at fault for the injury.
Workers' compensation laws are primarily intended to ensure that employees who are injured at work receive compensation for their injuries. However, workers' compensation also protects employers by prohibiting (in most cases) injured employees from filing personal injury lawsuits against employers based on work-related injuries.
In other words, in most cases you are unable to sue your employer for a work-related injury.
Does your employer have workers' compensation insurance?
Indiana requires almost all businesses to carry workers' compensation insurance to cover their employees. The only people who are NOT required to be covered by workers' compensation insurance include:
- Licensed real estate agents
- Independent contractors
- Fire or police department employees of municipal corporations (some benefits may be available through Section 36-8-4-5 of the Indiana Code)
- Federal employees and railroad employees (covered under federal laws)
- Sole proprietors
Independent contractors must receive a Workers' Compensation Exemption Certificate by filing a Form WCE-1, along with the application fee.
Is your injury covered by workers' compensation insurance?
All injuries and illnesses (other than those that are self-inflicted) are covered by workers' compensation insurance so long as the injury or illness arose out of your employment.
An injury is NOT considered to have arisen out of your employment if it occurred at work but would have occurred anywhere. For example, if you have a heart attack at work due to high cholesterol, you probably won't receive workers' compensation benefits because the heart attack did not necessarily arise strictly out of your employment.
Along these lines, mental-health issues are generally NOT covered in Indiana unless it can be proven that the stress related to the job was a substantial contributing factor to the onset of the illness (as is sometimes the case with first responders).
Workers' compensation covers both traumatic work injuries and occupational work injuries:
- Traumatic work injuries are those that result from a one-time accident at work (e.g., suffering a back injury as a result of a fall from construction scaffolding).
- Occupational injuries occur over a period of time (e.g., such repetitive movement injuries).
It's a common myth that employees can't receive compensation for pre-existing injuries. If you have a pre-existing injury that's temporarily or permanently aggravated by a work-related accident, you're still eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits.
How do you file a workers' compensation claim?
If you're injured at work, you need to notify your employer within 30 days of the injury and insist that they prepare a written report for the workers' compensation insurance company. Your employer must then fill out an Employer's Report of Injury form and send it to the workers' compensation insurance company (along with a copy to you) within 7 days. The insurance company must then file the report with the Indiana Workers Compensation Board. Finally, the insurance company has 29 days to accept or deny your claim.
What benefits does workers' compensation provide?
In Indiana, injured workers can receive the following workers' compensation benefits:
- Reasonable and necessary medical expenses (doctors visits, hospital bills, prescriptions, etc.)
- Wage loss benefits
- Death benefits for certain dependents
Wage loss benefits are calculated according to the nature of the injury, with injuries falling into 1 of 4 categories:
If you're able to return to part-time or light-duty work while you're recovering but earn less than your normal wages, you may be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits. Temporary partial disability benefits are ⅔ of the difference in your average weekly wages (subject to an ever-changing statutory maximum).
If you're temporarily unable to work, you may be eligible for temporary total disability benefits. Temporary total disability payments are ⅔ of your average weekly wages (subject to an ever-changing statutory maximum).
If you suffer a permanent injury but are still able to work in some capacity, you may be eligible for permanent partial disability benefits. Your award will be based on the permanent impairment rating assigned to you by your doctor, as well as a state schedule that lists degrees of impairment based on loss of use of certain body parts.
If you're totally and permanently disabled, you may be able to receive ⅔ of your average weekly wages (subject to an ever-changing statutory maximum). Permanent total disability benefits are available for up to 500 weeks.
Your workers' compensation checks are not taxable. This is why you're only paid ⅔ of your average weekly wage.
Can you appeal your workers' compensation decision?
If you're not happy with the workers' compensation decision (either you were denied benefits or you didn't receive all the benefits you felt you deserved), you can appeal the decision.
First, talk with your employer's insurance carrier to find out why your claim was denied or why you didn't receive the benefits you thought you should receive. Mistakes happen and often disputes can be resolved by sharing information or obtaining medical records.
If you can't resolve the dispute, contact an attorney or the Ombudsman Division of the Workers' Compensation Board to explore alternative dispute resolution options. If these alternatives don't help, you can file an Application for Adjustment of your Claim with the Workers' Compensation Board.
In general, an Application for Adjustment of Claim must be filed within 2 years from the date of the accident that caused the injury.
Can you receive treatment from
your own doctor?
Your employer has the right to choose your doctor. However, if you don't feel that you're receiving adequate medical care, you can file an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Workers' Compensation Board.
- Indiana Workers' Compensation Law: What You Need To Know
Did you know that workers' compensation law varies by state?
Need a lawyer?
What does an injury lawyer do?
A personal injury lawyer helps individuals who have sustained injuries in accidents to recover financial compensation. These funds are often needed to pay for medical treatment, make up for lost wages and provide compensation for injuries suffered. Sometimes a case that seems simple at first may become more complicated. In these cases, consider hiring an experienced personal injury lawyer. Read more