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Mike Myers
Mike Myers
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Workers Compensation Benefits a Small Piece of the Pie

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After an on the job injury the first benefits a persons typically receives are through workers compensation. But those benefits typically aren’t "full compensation". An example is provided by a recent story about an injured worker:

A construction worker injured Monday morning in an industrial accident at Naval Base Kitsap-Bremerton is in serious condition at Harborview Medical Center in Seattle.

The 48-year-old Enumclaw man was working for subcontractor American Civil Constructors of Lakewood, Colo., on a new aircraft carrier maintenance pier, according to a news release from Naval Facilities Engineering Command Northwest. He was hit by a spreader beam that was being lowered by a barge crane.

Washington’s workers compensation laws keep workers from being able to sue employers (or fellow employees) for injuries at work. However, employers of a subcontractor can make personal injury claims against (1) employees of other subcontractors and (2) the general contractor for failure to maintain a safe jobsite. In this case the injured worker–in addition to being entitled to workers compensation benefits–may also have claims against the crane operator and his employer (whether another subcontractor or the general contractor).

These claims are independent of each other and can be pursued contemporaneously. While workers can receive medical treatment and recover a portion of their lost wages through workers compensation (administered by the Department of Labor and Industries), the remedies are really pretty inadequate compared to the potential recovery associated with a personal injury claim where they could recover for their pain, loss of enjoyment of life, etc. as it applies to them.

Do you think that workers compensation benefits should be broader? Should they include the same categories as damages in a personal injury lawsuit? Should the Department of Labor and Industries make payments for pain and suffering?