When Minnesotans are injured on the job, they may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, including medical coverage and wage replacement.
Workers in nearly every industry and profession have at least some risk of injury. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, there were 78,700 work-related injuries across the state of Minnesota alone in 2014. In the wake of workplace accidents, people may wonder how they will pay their medical bills and support themselves while they are recovering. In order to help protect their rights, it is important for workers to understand what workers' compensation benefits they may be entitled to.
Many occupational injuries and illnesses require medical treatment, which may carry significant costs. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry points out that workers' compensation in the state covers the expense of all medical care associated with such injuries, provided it is deemed reasonable and medically necessary. This includes the fees for doctor office visits, surgery and other procedures, lab work and other tests, durable medical equipment and prescription medications. In some circumstances, injured workers may also be reimbursed for their medical treatment-related travel expenses.
Wage replacement benefits
Sometimes, people may be forced to work fewer hours or alter their job duties for some time following workplace injuries. In other cases, they may be left unable to work altogether for a period of time. When occupational injuries cause workers to be out of work and affect their income, they may be entitled to temporary total disability or temporary partial disability benefits. These are payments that are made to workers until they are able to return to their normal work status or the allowed number of weeks has passed. Both of these types of benefits pay workers two-thirds of their gross weekly wage at the time when their injuries occurred.
In some cases, workers may be left permanently disabled or unable to work as a result of injuries they suffer on the job. Depending on the circumstances, workers may be able to receive permanent total disability if they cannot return to their jobs because of their injuries. If they are entitled to this benefit, injured workers are paid two-thirds of what they were earning each week at the time of their accidents.
When work-related accidents cause the permanent loss of function of a body part, workers may be eligible to receive permanent partial disability. Like the other monetary benefits offered through workers' compensation coverage, permanent partial disability pays workers two-thirds of their weekly income when they were injured. According to the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, people who are eligible for this benefit may request to receive a lump sum payment as opposed to regular payments over a fixed period of time.
Minnesota workers' compensation law provides for relatively generous vocational rehabilitation services to eligible injured workers. Rehabilitation helps the injured worker return to work related to his or her previous job, in a different field with similar economic status or to one with a higher economic status if necessary to "increase the likelihood of reemployment."
The process begins with the assignment of a qualified rehabilitation consultant, called a QRC, who conducts a rehabilitation consultation. If appropriate, a rehabilitation plan is developed considering all of the worker's qualifications and the job market. Services under the plan may include:
- On-the-job training
- Job development such as facilitation of job leads and contact with employers for interviews
- Retraining such as through vocational training or college coursework
The statute that governs vocational rehabilitation is complex, so consulting an attorney with questions and to learn about associated rights is a smart idea. In particular, there are complicated procedural requirements and deadlines that may apply, so an injured worker should not delay in learning about the range of vocational rehabilitation benefits that may be available.
In addition, a qualified dependent surviving spouse of a worker who experienced a work-related death may also be eligible for rehabilitation services to support him or herself.
Looking out for injured workers
With few exceptions, when workers are injured on the job in Minnesota, they may be eligible to receive workers' compensation. However, there may be roadblocks that complicate the process of obtaining those benefits. Thus, people who suffer occupational injuries may find it helpful to seek legal guidance. A lawyer may explain their rights and help them navigate the claims process.