Workers’ compensation is mandatory insurance that the state of Minnesota requires most employers to have, for it insures and reimburses expenses derived from work-related injuries or illnesses. Much like mandatory automobile insurance, workers’ comp seeks to guard against the potential of an injured party being left without financial reimbursement. Yet, workers’ comp at its root is a compromise between employees and employers, for it fundamentally involves a tradeoff – employees are assured coverage for all work-related injuries (whether their own fault or not) in exchange for relinquishing the right to sue their employers for negligence involved in such injuries.
Workers’ comp only applies to work-related injuries – injuries that are caused, aggravated, or accelerated by one’s employment activities. Though some claims are very simple, straightforward, and easily proven, other cases, especially where injuries are an aggravation or acceleration of a preexisting condition, are not as simple. The key for the employee is to show that an employment activity was a substantial contributing factor in the injury. For instance, imagine someone with an old football injury – though his knee functions fine now, he still has a vulnerable area of his body that could be aggravated by the right circumstances. Yet, such an aggravation of his knee would still be covered by workers’ comp if a work-related activity was a substantial contributing factor in causing the current injury.
Once liability for an injury is proven, work comp pays for reasonable and necessary medical care in treating the injury and wage loss for the time lost from work. For instance, if a welder broke his arm, workers’ compensation would not only cover the medical expenses involved with a broken arm, but also the lost wages from not being able to weld during his recovery period. Other things that workers’ comp covers includes: benefits if the injury involves permanent damage, benefits for one’s dependents if one dies from a work-related injury, and vocational rehab if one is forced to change occupations because of a work-related injury.