What is Workers Compensation?
Louisiana Workers Compensation is a system of laws in Louisiana meant to protect injured and disabled workers. It is often referred to as "worker's comp" or "workman's comp" or even just "comp."
Under workers compensation in Louisiana, if you are injured on the job, or fall ill on the job, you are entitled to receive medical care for the your work-related injuries, a portion of your lost wages, and vocational rehabilitation services. Also, in the event of your death at work, your survivors are entitled to receive benefits.
What is the Purpose of Workers Compensation?
The goal of workers compensation is to make sure an employee injured at the workplace receives adequate medical care and lost wages relating to their on-the-job injury, and, if necessary, any retraining necessary to restore them to the workforce.
Who Pays for Workers Compensation?
Louisiana mandates compulsory workers compensation insurance. This means that employers must provide workers compensation insurance for their employees. It may be provided through a state fund, a private insurance carrier, or an employer may self-insure. Waivers are permitted in some rare cases. But in almost all cases, your employer will have workers compensation insurance, so the employer's private insurance company will handle the claim and pay the benefits.
Thus, workers compensation benefits in Louisiana are paid directly by the employer or (in most cases) by the employer's workers compensation insurance company. No benefits are paid by the Office of Workers' Compensation or any other court. So in that sense, Louisiana workers compensation is not just a set of laws, but also a regulated form of insurance.
Who Administers Louisiana Workers Compensation?
Louisiana workers compensation is administered by the Office of Workers' Compensation ("OWC") within the Louisiana Workforce Commission (formerly the Louisiana Department of Labor). So the OWC is basically the courts that would handle any workers compensation disputes in Louisiana, and the courts who would sign off on any workers compensation settlements.
The Office of Workers' Compensation maintains ten offices throughout the state of Louisiana. The offices are located in the following Louisiana cities: Monroe, Shreveport, Alexandria, Lake Charles, Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Covington, Harahan, New Orleans, and Houma.
Basically, depending on where you or you employer are located, or where your accident occurred, your case will be handled in one of these offices if you have to go to court.
Does It Matter Whose Fault the Accident Was?
In Louisiana workers compensation, it does not matter whose fault the accident was. That is, if you are injured at work, you are entitled to workers compensation benefits, even if the accident was your fault. Your employer's workers compensation insurance company must pay you directly for your lost wages, and must pay your medical providers directly for your medical care. Fault is simply not a factor in receiving Louisiana workers compensation benefits.
The Louisiana workers compensation “no-fault" insurance system is different from typical personal injury cases. In personal injury cases, in order for you to receive compensation, you would need to prove that another party was at fault, which means that they did something wrong.
For example, let's say you were driving in New Orleans on your day off from work, and you got in a car accident. If the accident was your fault, then you are not going to get paid; you're not going to get money for your damaged car (unless some had special comprehensive coverage), your medical bills, or your lost wages. But if the accident on your day off was the other driver's fault, then you would get paid for these things.
But now let's say you were injured in a car accident in New Orleans, but this time you were on the job working as a delivery driver. Here, even if the accident was your fault, you would still be entitled to workers compensation benefits of lost wages and medical care. These workers compensation benefits would not be paid by your auto insurance, or by the other driver's insurance. These workers compensation benefits of lost wages and medical care would instead be paid by your employer's workers compensation insurance company.
What is the "Tradeoff" in Workers Compensation?
The "tradeoff" is Louisiana workers compensation is an important concept to understand. In the tradeoff, both the employer and the employee give up some things in order to receive some things in return. Essentially, Louisiana workers compensation is a compromise agreed to under the law between employers and employees.
What does the employee get?
As noted above, the employee can receive benefits in workers compensation even the accident was his or her fault. This is huge for the employee, because fault is almost always a huge area of dispute in most personal injury claims. For example, in the personal injury car accident (where driver was not working) example, if the injured driver were 50% at fault, then only 50% of the injured driver's medical bills would be paid for. The injured workers compensation claimant does not have to worry about that - all their medical bills will be paid for. Plus, injured workers compensation claimant does not have to spend the time and money arguing over the fault of the accident.
What does the employee give up?
The employee gives up the right to sue their employer for any recovery outside of the guaranteed workers compensation benefits of medical care, lost wages, and vocational rehabilitation services. Most importantly, that means that the employee cannot recover from their employer for pain and suffering. That is a huge difference between personal injury matters and workers compensation claims. It should be noted that an injured party could possibly recover pain and suffering from a third party who caused an accident, even if that accident occurred while the claimant was on the job. One other thing the employee gives up is that they only receive 2/3 of their lost wages.
What does the employer get?
Above all, the employer gets the guarantee that it will not be sued for anything outside the guaranteed workers compensation benefits (medical care, lost wages, and vocational rehabilitation services). So long as the employer maintains its proper workers comp insurance, it essentially doesn't have to worry about be sued by an employee for an accident. This is why workers compensation is known as the "exclusive remedy" for employees injured while working in the state of Louisiana, because it is the only avenue for claims that employees can have against employers for such accidents. The only exception to the "exclusive remedy" rule is that an employer is responsible for an “intentional act” which resulted in injury or death to its employee. In that case, the employee can then sue his or her employer for pain and suffering; however, this “intentional act” situation is very rare.
What does the employer give up?
Frankly, not much. The employer is however required to maintain workers compensation insurance at all times, at their own cost, which is a financial burden.