The most commonly asked questions about workplace injuries in the Hoosier State
In 1915, the Indiana General Assembly passed the Indiana Workers’ Compensation Act. To this day, the goal of the Act is to provide injured workers with a process for receiving compensation without having to sue their employers.
As is the case with most legislation, the Indiana Workers’ Compensation Act is long, complicated, and full of legal jargon. Here at Enjuris, we want everyone to understand their rights—whether you’re an employee or an employer.
With this in mind, we’ve provided answers to some of the most common Indiana workers’ compensation questions.
Employee workers’ compensation questions
Q: What laws govern workers’ compensation in Indiana?
In Indiana, workers’ compensation is governed by the Indiana Workers’ Compensation Act. The full text of the Act can be found in Title 22, Article 3 of the Indiana Code.
The Workers’ Compensation Board of Indiana is tasked with administering the provisions of the Act. Each member of the Board is appointed by the Governor of Indiana and holds the position for 4 years.
Q: What’s the first thing I should do if I’m injured on the job?
If you’re injured on the job, it’s your responsibility to notify your employer within 30 days of the injury and request that they prepare a written report for the workers’ compensation insurance company.
Once this request is made, your employer is required to fill out an Employer’s Report of Injury form and send it to the insurer (along with a copy to you) within 7 days. Keep in mind that your employer is required to submit a form even if they don’t think you have a valid claim. If your employer refuses to submit the form, you should contact an attorney or the Ombudsman Division of the Workers’ Compensation Board.
Once your employer submits the form, the insurer is required to submit a copy to the Workers’ Compensation Board and accept or deny your claim within 29 days.
Q: Can I hire an attorney to help with my workers’ compensation claim?
Absolutely! Though it’s not required, it’s a good idea to consult with an attorney at the beginning of the workers’ compensation process to ensure that everything goes smoothly and that you receive the full amount of compensation you deserve.
If you choose to forego an attorney at first, it’s strongly recommended that you consult with one if your claim is denied or you don’t receive the benefits you believe you deserve.
Q: What injuries and illnesses are covered by workers’ compensation?
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 generally NOT considered to have arisen out of your employment if it occurred during your lunch break or while commuting to or from work.
An injury is also 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 wasn’t related to 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.
Q: What benefits are available?
Injured workers can receive the following benefits:
- Reasonable and necessary medical expenses
- Wage loss benefits
- Death benefits (for certain dependents of workers killed on the job)
Wage loss benefits are calculated according to the nature of the injury, with injuries falling into 1 of 4 categories: temporary partial disability, temporary total disability, permanent total disability, and permanent partial disability.
Q: Can I select my healthcare provider?
If you're seriously injured at work and need to call 9-1-1, you have the right to see any doctor at the hospital. In other words, take care of yourself by any means necessary in the case of an emergency. Thereafter, your employee has the right to choose your doctor.
However, if you don’t feel that you’re receiving adequate medical care, you can attempt to switch doctors by filing an Application for Adjustment of Claim with the Workers’ Compensation Board.
Q: What if I was injured but my employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance?
If you suffered an injury at work and your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance, you have a couple of options depending on whether or not your employer is supposed to have workers’ compensation insurance:
- Your employer is supposed to have workers’ compensation insurance. Most employers in Indiana are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. If your employer doesn’t have insurance coverage (and should), you can contact the Workers’ Compensation Board. The Board will take legal action against the employer and may require the employer to pay you the amount you would have received through insurance. If the Board doesn’t require the employer to pay you, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against the employer.
- Your employer is not required to have workers’ compensation insurance. If your employer isn’t required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, you might still be able to receive compensation by filing a personal injury lawsuit against the employer. Keep in mind that, unlike a workers’ compensation claim, you’ll need to prove that the employer was negligent in order to recover damages.
Employer workers’ compensation questions
Q: Am I required to carry workers’ compensation insurance?
Most employers in Indiana are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees. There are only a few situations when workers’ compensation coverage is NOT required by the state. These exceptions are:
- Licensed real estate agents
- Independent contractors
- Fire or police department employees of municipal corporations
- Federal employees and railroad employees (covered under federal laws)
- Sole proprietors
Q: What happens if I don’t carry workers’ compensation insurance?
If you’re required to carry workers’ compensation and fail to do so, you may face strict penalties that range from a substantial fine to jail time. If an employee is injured and you don’t have insurance coverage, the Workers’ Compensation Board may force you to compensate the injured employee. If the Board chooses not to do so, the employee has the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against you.
Bottom line: Make sure you’re in compliance.
Q: What do I do if an employee is injured at work?
When an employee is injured at work, they’re required to provide you with notice of the injury. Once notice is provided, you have 7 days to complete an Employer’s Report of Injury form and send it to the insurer (along with a copy to the injured employee).
Once you submit the form, the insurer must submit a copy to the Workers’ Compensation Board and accept or deny the claim within 29 days.
Q: What if I don’t believe my employee was really injured on the job?
If you don’t believe your employee has a valid workers’ compensation claim (perhaps you believe the employee was actually injured at home or that the injury was self-inflicted), you can dispute the claim once it’s filed (either through the informal dispute resolution process or by filing an Application for Adjustment of Claim).
Be sure to communicate with your workers’ compensation insurance carrier. Carriers don’t want to pay claims that aren’t valid. If you have information you believe is relevant to the employee’s claim, pass it along to the carrier.
Q: Can I be sued in lieu of a workers’ compensation claim?
A workers’ compensation claim is generally the sole remedy for an employee who suffers a work-related injury. There are, however, a couple of important exceptions in Indiana.
First, an employee can reject workers’ compensation coverage. If an employee rejects coverage before the injury occurs, the employee retains their right to pursue a civil lawsuit against the employer. Similarly, if the employer fails to provide notice advising the employee of their right to reject workers’ compensation coverage, the employer retains their right to pursue a civil lawsuit.
Second, if an employee is injured through the “willful misconduct” of the employer, the injured employee can file a civil lawsuit against the employer.