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After getting hurt at work in DC, are you entitled to workers comp benefits?

Workers’ compensation cases are not as simple as people think. A slight mistake can cause you hundreds of dollars each week. According to the D.C. Workers’ Compensation Act, in order to be entitled for workers’ compensation benefits, there are some key points that need to be addressed.

There needs to be an existence of an employee-employer relationship at the time of the injury. This means the employer has the “right to control.” The employer can hire and fire the employee, tell him or her what to do and where and how to do it, and can decide how the employee is paid. So you can't be an independent contractor or vendor.  Usually if you get a W-2 at the end of the year and your company deducts taxes from your income, you are an employee of the company - but the legal test is actually broader.

The injury must happen in the course and scope of the employment. In other words, there needs to be a connection between your work and the injury. Generally speaking, if the employee is injured when he was “on the clock” during work hours, his injury is considered to have happened in the course and scope of the employment. Or if you are doing something that benefits your company, you are usually considered to be in the course and scope of your employment.

Injuries that occur over time can be considered work related.

Other cases of workers’ compensation can include cumulative trauma injuries or occupational disease. These injuries can be caused by repetitive actions. For example, a typist may develop carpal tunnel syndrome as a result of her repetitive typing on the job. Or a construction worker operating a drill or other machinery over time can develop an injury due to the repetitive stress of the activity.

Injuries that are an aggravation of an underlying condition can qualify for workers comp.

Injuries at work that entitle you to workers comp benefits in DC can be based on an aggravation of a prior condition. If a worker has a bad back and his job required him lift something that aggravated the back injury, and made it worse, he would be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.  

Sometimes this is like the straw that broke the camel's back.  Pre-existing conditions, like arthritis or spinal stenosis, can be aggravated by a work injury.

Where you file your workers comp claim is critical.

Where you file a claim after a work injury can also play into your claim for workers’ compensation - filing your claim in the right jurisdiction is critical, so don't sign anything the insurance company sends you until you check with an experienced workers comp lawyer in DC.

Generally, DC workers’ compensation laws governing these issues are considered more favorable to injured workers than insurance companies when compared with the laws of Virginia and Maryland.

This is just a small portion of the factors that can influence your workers’ compensation case. There is a lot of information and we want to make sure workers know what their rights are and how to protect them.

This is why I wrote the book Protect Your Rights: The Ultimate Guide to D.C. Workers’ Compensation. It is an easy-to-read overview of DC workers’ compensation laws and rights for workers who have been hurt on the job in the DC area. This book provides general information on what workers need to know to make sure they get all the compensation needed to help them after an injury at work. Don’t let the insurance companies win just because you were unaware of certain laws. Call (202) 393 – 3320 today and we’ll send you your free copy right away.

Frank R. Kearney, Attorney-at-Law
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Experienced DC Workers' Comp, Long Term Disability & Accident Lawyer
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