What is Workers' Compensation?

Most people have heard about Workers' Compensation benefits, but unless a person has actually had to file and pursue a “work comp” claim, few people have a full understanding of how the work comp “system” works.


The Concept of Workers' Compensation

It is hard to believe, but the concept of Workers’ Compensation insurance coverage for an injured employee in the United States is barely 100 years old. At its core, a Workers’ Compensation system is intended to provide medical and wage loss benefits to a worker who is injured while in the course and scope of his or her employment – regardless of fault.

Prior to the addition of Workers’ Compensation law into the American legal justice system, civil trials stood as the only option in which employees could recover compensation for injuries incurred while on the job. This was a system that favored employers, making it difficult for employees to recover benefits should they be found any way responsible for their own injury, the employee was aware of the inherent danger of their employment, or if a co-worker was contributed to the negligence that resulted in the accident.

By the end of the first decade of the 20th century, Montana was one of 4 states that had adopted Workers’ Compensation reform. The “grand bargain” between industry and worker was simple – the employer, in exchange for immunity from civil lawsuits, would agree to provide Workers’ Compensation coverage to its employers – medical and wage loss benefits to be paid to an employee injured “in the course and scope of employment” regardless of who caused the accident or injury.

Typically, an employer pays premiums for a work comp insurance policy which is supposed to cover employees when they are injured on the job. In return, the employer is immune from a civil suit by the employee even if the employer’s negligent or reckless conduct caused the accident/injury. The work comp system becomes the employee’s “exclusive remedy” for the on the job injury, at least as it relates to the employer.

Who Qualifies for Workers' Compensation?


An “employee” is covered under an employer’s Workers' Compensation insurance policy. The employee does not have to be on the job for a specific amount of time to qualify. On the other hand, independent contractors and people who are not considered “employees” are generally not eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits.


Types of Qualifying Accidents / Injuries

Workers’ Compensation insurance covers a broad range of incidents and accidents that can occur during the course of a person's employment. In Montana, given our diverse workforce, we unfortunately see all kinds of workplace accidents that cause injury.

We see all sorts of accidents and injuries in Montana given the physical nature of the work in many of our industries – explosions in the oilfield, falls and lifting injuries in the construction industry, respiratory issues in the mining industry, injury caused by animals in the ranching industry, and many car and truck accidents involving employees traveling in the course and scope of their employment given the vast distance many have to travel for their employment.

How to File a Workers' Comp Claim


The requirements for Workers’ Compensation eligibility differ depending on whether you suffered an “injury” in a single traumatic event or suffer from a job related condition, often called an “occupational disease,” that developed over a period of time.


1. For an ” injury,” you must notify your employer that you were injured on the job within 30 days of the injury. We recommend that the notice be in writing and that you retain a copy of the notice. The 30 day notice requirement does not apply to an “occupational disease.”


2. For an “injury,” in addition to the 30 day notice to the employer, you must also file a formal written claim for compensation within 1 year of the injury either with your employer, the employer’s workers’ compensation insurer, or the Montana Department of Labor and Industry.


3. For an “occupational disease,” you must file a formal written claim for compensation within 1 year from the date you knew or should have known the condition was work related.
The time limits may be waived in very limited situations. If you are concerned about time limits, you should contact us.


What to Do if the Claim Gets Denied


If your work comp claim is denied, we invite you to contact us at Odegaard Braukmann Law so that we can evaluate whether the denial is supported by the circumstances of your injury, the medical evidence and rules and regulations that apply.


How is My Attorney Paid?


Generally, the attorney receives a contingent fee. This means that no fee is paid to the attorney unless his or her efforts are successful in obtaining benefits for you. Most often the contingent fee is 20% of the benefits obtained due to the efforts of the attorney. The percentage may increase to 25% if the benefits are obtained as a result of court proceedings.

Our Montana workers’ compensation lawyers help people overcome their denials so that they can get the benefits they deserve. We also handle personal injury cases that occur because of the employer's neglect. Injured persons can receive free case evaluations if they reach out to our firm today and ask for assistance.

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