Most Maryland employees can apply for workers’ compensation if they suffer an injury or develop a job-related disease. But obtaining these benefits can be a challenge. Even though workers’ compensation should be provided to all qualifying employees under the law, insurance companies are often reluctant to make fair payouts.
What is Workers’ Compensation?
Maryland law requires most employers to carry workers’ compensation insurance to cover employees who get hurt on the job. This insurance provides money to offset a worker’s financial losses while they cannot work.
Workers’ comp benefits are no-fault benefits, meaning the employee does not have to prove someone else is responsible for their injuries to get coverage. But there is a trade-off. In exchange for no-fault benefits, employees lose the right to sue their employers for negligence.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?
Workers’ compensation covers an employee’s medical expenses, provides partial wage replacement, and pays disability benefits while they cannot work. To receive coverage, the employee’s injury must result from an “accidental personal injury arising out of and in the course of employment.” Not every injury that happens while working automatically qualifies you for workers’ comp. It must have occurred while you were performing a job-related duty.
In addition, workers’ compensation also provides death benefits to qualifying family members if a job injury proves fatal.
What is Not Covered by Workers’ Comp?
Your ability to receive workers’ comp depends on what you were doing at the time of the accident. For example, getting into a car accident on your lunch break would not qualify as a work-related injury. But if you deliver flowers for a living and in a car crash on your way to make a delivery, you would likely be entitled to workers’ compensation.
Your workers’ comp claim could also be contested if you were intoxicated or engaging in horseplay when the accident occurred. However, those behaviors do not necessarily bar you from receiving workers’ comp.
What Are My Rights After an Injury at Work?
Every business with one or more workers must have workers’ compensation insurance in Maryland. After a job injury, you have the right to file a workers’ comp claim asking your employer to cover your losses.
You have 10 days from the date of the injury to inform your employers of your injury. Family members of a fatally injured worker have 30 days to notify the employer of the injury. You must make a report even if the employer already knows about the injury, ideally in writing.
Some workers are not entitled to workers’ comp, such as independent contractors. Contact an attorney if you need help figuring out your rights to workers’ compensation.
What Happens After I File a Claim?
After you file a claim for a work injury or occupational illness, your employer or its workers’ compensation insurer has 21 days to either accept your claim or file contesting issues, which will lead to the claim being filed with the Maryland Workers’ Compensation Commission. Within 30 days of your claim’s filing, a commissioner will either issue an award or schedule your claim for a hearing if your employer challenges the claim.
Do I Have to Hire a Lawyer for My Claim?
You are not required to hire an attorney to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits. But if you are struggling to get your claim approved by the insurance company’s adjuster or your employer, or if you are scheduled for a hearing before a workers’ compensation commissioner, it’s wise to seek legal counsel. Insurance companies do not fear an injured worker without an attorney. But if you walk in with a lawyer, they will know you mean business.
Can My Employer Fire Me for Filing a Workers’ Comp Claim?
It is against the law for an employer to fire you simply for filing a workers’ comp claim in Maryland. That’s your right. But there is a twist. The law says that you cannot be fired solely for filing a claim. But if your employer terminates you for some other reason as well, they could be well within their rights.