An occupational injury or illness is a health problem which results from a job site. An injury may be a cut or a broken bone; an illness may result from exposure to hazardous chemicals or other unusual occurrence.
Workers injured on the job are eligible for cash disability benefits and medical care through the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Act, passed by the state legislature in 1948. Administered by the Workers' Compensation Commission, the act created a type of "no-fault" insurance paid for by employers to cover work-related injuries. In exchange for providing prompt, legislatively limited benefits to the injured employee, the worker cannot sue the employer for damages.
Workers' compensation covers nearly every working Mississippian. Exceptions include businesses with less than five employees, independent contractors, volunteers, and others. An employee's coverage begins upon employment and has no probationary period or minimum salary level for eligibility.
When an occupational injury or illness occurs, the worker should report it immediately to the supervisor or employer, who in turn files a report with the Workers' Compensation Commission. Coverage includes medical services and supplies, cash payments for lost wages, and rehabilitation services. If the injury or illness leads to death, the surviving spouse, children, and other dependents receive death benefits and payment for reasonable funeral expenses.
Medical services covered by the insurance include treatment by physicians, hospital and nursing services, medicine, physical therapy, mileage for out-of-town doctor's appointments, and related expenses. The employer's insurance company pays the health care providers directly for their services. Workers' compensation insurance does not require a deductible by the employer or injured employee.
The insurance company or the employer pays the cash disability benefits to the employee. These benefits continue depending upon the extent of the injury and loss of wages but cannot exceed 450 weeks. Cash benefits can equal as much as two thirds of an employee's average weekly pay. While not full salary, workers' compensation benefits are tax free.
If an employer or the insurance company denies a workers' compensation claim, the employee can consult with an attorney for advice. Lawyer fees are deducted from any cash benefits the employee receives and cannot exceed 25 percent of the total award.
Employees with questions concerning a claim should contact the employer or insurance carrier for information. For general information, contact the Mississippi Workers' Compensation Commission in Jackson at 601/987-4200.