If you were injured on the job, Rhode Island’s workers compensation system is set up to pay you lost wages and medical payments without having to show the cause of your injuries. This is a “no fault” insurance system intended to speed up payment to injured workers. But, it has limitations. Receiving workers’ comp benefits will prevent you from bringing personal injury and other claims related to your injury — unless a third party’s negligence caused your injuries.
RI Workers’ Compensation Benefits
RI workers’ compensation insurance system pays medical expenses and lost wages to workers who were injured or became ill in the course of their employment. It pays for injuries both physical and mental. RI employers with one or more employees must carry workers’ comp. A separate RI Workers’ Compensation Court is devoted to workers’ comp disputes.
How Does Workers’ Compensation Work?
You must give prompt notice to your employer. The employer then files a claim with the insurance carrier. Your employer or union may recommend a workers’ comp attorney to you – but know that you are entitled to hire the attorney of your choice. Having your own workers’ comp attorney represent you – especially from the moment of injury – can be important because disputes often arise over when you must return to work and the proper treatment and length of treatment for your injury or illness.
The Workers’ Comp Exclusivity Rule
While the system is set up to give a “no fault” payment for medical expenses and lost wages, it provides only limited compensation. You will not receive payments for pain and suffering, punitive damages, or loss of consortium by your family members.
Also, by accepting workers’ compensation benefits, in most cases you waive your right to file other injury-related claims that might have given you a greater recovery. Known as the “workers’ comp exclusivity rule,” R.I. Gen. Laws Section 28-29-20 makes work comp benefits the exclusive right and remedy against your employer. This law also bars less obvious claims, such as right to privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress claims.
Some claims against the employer for “intangible” work-related injuries are not barred by the exclusivity provision because the workers’ comp system does not cover these injuries, such as:
- defamation, and
- workplace discrimination.
Victims of these injuries may have the capacity to work but still suffer an injury for which their employer must compensate them.
You may be able to avoid the exclusivity provision if your negligence claim is against someone other than your employer. So if a non-employer’s negligence caused your work-related injury, you could have both a work comp claim and a personal injury claim against the third party.
Navigating the Work Comp System
Navigating the RI work comp system and what claims are barred and not barred is complex. Contact our experienced workers’ compensation attorneys today online or at (401) 777-7777, to discuss your work-related injury and how you may recover the maximum compensation to which you are entitled.