Quinlivan & Hughes attorney Thomas J. Christenson has more than 30 years of workers’ compensation experience. He invites you to test your Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Law knowledge below.
What is workers’ compensation in Minnesota?
Workers’ compensation came into existence in 1913. Prior to that date, there was no workers’ compensation law in Minnesota. If you were hurt on the job, you had to sue your employer in civil court and prove that the employer was at fault for causing your injury. Since 1913, all you need to establish is that you were hurt in the course and scope of employment and you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The benefits are limited to what is provided by the law on the date that you were injured.
What types of injuries are covered under workers’ compensation in Minnesota?
Physical injuries are covered by workers’ compensation in Minnesota. There are several different types of physical injuries that a person can sustain. The first type of injury occurs in a traumatic accident. As an example, if you are carrying a box and fall down and break your leg, it is easy to establish the injury happened at work. Another type of injury is referred to as a Gillette injury. A Gillette injury is one that occurs over a period of time as a result of repetitive work activity. For example, if you are a barrel maker and spend thirty years making barrels and one day your shoulder freezes up but you did not fall down and injury the shoulder on a specific date, you have a compensable injury based upon the repetitive work activity you performed causing the shoulder to lock up. A third type of injury is an occupational disease. Assume that you work around chemicals and later develop lung cancer caused by the chemical exposure. Your lung cancer would be covered by workers’ compensation because of the chemical exposure at work which substantially contributed to your developing lung cancer. Consequential injuries are also covered under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Law. Consequential injuries occur if you have a back injury which causes you to limp resulting in the development of leg pain. In such a circumstance, both your back and leg injury are covered by workers’ compensation because the leg pain developed as a consequence of the back injury. Finally, if you sustain an injury while treating for a work-related injury, the injury would also be covered. As an example, if you are treating for a back injury and get into a car accident while going to the doctor to treat for the work-related injury and break your arm, both your back and arm injuries would be covered under the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Act.
Are stress-related claims covered under workers’ compensation in Minnesota?
Effective October 1, 2013, employees in Minnesota diagnosed with PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) caused by an incident at work will be covered for workers’ compensation benefits. The change in law recognized that mental-injuries, injuries without any physical injury are covered. Prior to the change in law, mental injury could result in a compensable claim if it was caused by a physical injury, such as depression caused by a back injury, or if it resulted in a physical injury like a police officer developing an ulcer caused by the stress on the job. The PTSD diagnosis must be made by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist. Stress caused by work place actions such as discipline, lay-offs or terminations are not covered under the new law.
Who can file a workers’ compensation claim in Minnesota?
Only employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. An employee is someone who works for a business entity or an individual for pay. Certain types of employment situations are not covered. If you are an independent contractor, you are not covered for workers’ compensation. If you are a corporate officer, such as a vice president of a corporation, you are not covered unless you have specifically elected to be covered for workers’ compensation coverage. Also, if you are a family member working for your mom, dad, brother or uncle, you are not covered unless there is a specific election to cover family members for workers’ compensation benefits. Also, if you are farm laborer, you generally are not covered. Volunteers may or may not be covered depending on the specific factual circumstances surrounding their employment.
Can I receive workers’ compensation benefits if I re-injury a pre-existing condition?
If you injure a pre-existing condition in a work incident, you may be covered by workers’ compensation. In order to have a valid workers’ compensation, the work injury to the pre-existing condition has to be a substantial contributing factor. In other words, the work injury does not have to be the sole factor or even a primary factor, only a substantial contributing factor. If you have a pre-existing low back condition and while lifting a box at work, develop back pain, workers’ compensation should cover the injury because the work activities substantially aggravated your pre-existing back condition.
How do I tell my employer that I was hurt on the job?
In Minnesota, injured employee must notify the employer of a work-related injury in a timely manner. The report should be made in writing but in the modern world, notice could be made by email, voicemail or text message. The notice should be made to someone in a supervisory position such as your supervisor or in the human resources department. The notice should include the specific detail of how you were injured. Once you report the incident to your supervisor, the supervisor should advise the appropriate human resources individual, who then should complete a First Report of Injury for forwarding to the workers’ compensation insurance carrier. If your employer refuses to file the claim, you should contact the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry and personnel there will assist you in filing the claim.