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Indiana Workers’ Compensation Law

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in Compensation and Benefits,Employment Law,FMLA Guidelines,Human Resources

The Indiana workers’ compensation system is designed to protect employees who are injured on the job by replacing lost wages while they recover. The Indiana Workers’ Compensation Board (www.in.gov/workcomp) administers the law.

The system works as a no-fault guarantee. Employees who can show they were hurt while working are entitled to a portion of their earnings and paid medical care for the injuries suffered. They needn’t prove that their employer was negligent. In exchange for the no-fault guarantee, workers can’t sue for negligence to collect far more than just lost wages and medical payments.

In some situations, employees aren’t eligible for workers’ compensation payments. For example, a person can’t collect benefits if the injury:

  • Isn’t accidental within the meaning of the law (intentional acts of co-workers are considered accidental, since the injured worker couldn’t have anticipated them in the normal course of work).
  • Did not arise out of employment.
  • Did not occur in the course of employment.

What if the injury occurred while the employee was intoxicated? An employer isn’t necessarily off the hook. The employer can use the intoxication as a defense only if it can prove the employee’s intoxication caused the injury.

Further, unlike in many other states, employers are always responsible for the negligent actions of fellow employees when the employees are acting within the scope of their jobs. Employers may not use the so-called “fellow servant” rule as a defense.

Under the Indiana Workers’ Compensation Law, employers are held accountable for a variety of workplace injuries: for instance, those that occur in common areas, such as parking lots, driveways and entrance roads.

Virtually all Indiana businesses must carry workers’ comp insurance. Employers that wish to self-insure must apply to the Indiana Workers’ Compensation Board for permission to do so or may post a bond guaranteeing payment to injured workers. (Partners and sole proprietors aren’t required to carry workers’ comp coverage, but may opt in to the program.)

Tips for reducing workers’ comp costs

One way you can reduce your workers’ compensation costs is to encourage employees to return to work as soon as they’re able.

For example, you can make available light-duty positions for injured employees who may not be ready to return to more demanding jobs. Work with your insurance carrier to develop a light-duty program.

ADA, FMLA and workers’ comp

Employees injured at work may also be considered disabled under the ADA or the Hoosiers with Disabilities Act (HDA) and have a serious medical condition under the FMLA.

So, make sure you coordinate any unpaid leave and reasonable accommodations, such as light-duty work or intermittent leave, in handling HDA, ADA and FMLA claims with the insurance carrier. Nothing will sink a case faster than evidence that an employer acquiesced to a workers’ compensation claim but refused to allow an FMLA claim for the same condition.

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