Minnesota’s workers’ compensation system covers medical treatment and pays benefits to employees who are injured at work. In most cases, workers’ comp is an employee’s only method of getting compensation from his or her employer. (To learn about exceptions to this rule, see Workplace Injury: When You Can Sue Outside of Workers’ Compensation.) This article explains the workers’ comp process in Minnesota and how to start a claim if you were injured at work.
Minnesota law requires all private employers to have workers’ compensation coverage for their employees. Many employers meet this obligation by purchasing a policy from a private insurance company. The insurance company is responsible for reviewing claims and deciding whether to pay benefits. (Larger employers can also get the state’s approval to be self-insured, which means that they reviews claims and pay their employees directly.)
Workers’ compensation covers injuries that are caused by work or that are made worse because of work. For example, if you work at a computer all day and develop carpal tunnel, your injury will likely be covered by workers’ comp. Similarly, if you aggravate an old back injury while carrying heavy boxes for work, you will likely be covered.
Workers’ comp is a no-fault system, which means that you can usually collect compensation regardless of who was at fault for the injury. However, certain injuries—such as those caused by the employee’s participation in horseplay or practical jokes—are typically not covered. (For more information, see Workers’ Compensation: Is Your Injury or Illness Work-Related?)
The first step to making a workers’ comp claim is to report your injury to your employer. You have 14 days to provide notice, but it is best to notify your employer as soon as possible. If you wait more than a day or two to report it, your employer or its insurance company might doubt the legitimacy of your claim.
You should also get medical treatment right away. If you need emergency treatment, you should go to the nearest emergency room or urgent care. Employees are allowed to choose their own treating doctors, except where the employer has a managed care plan (MCP). If your employer has an MCP, you may need to see a doctor in the plan’s network. Be sure to check with your employer before getting any non-emergency treatment.
Once you give notice of your injury, your employer should notify its insurance company and file a First Report of Injury form with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI). The insurance company will then evaluate your claim, usually by talking to you, your employer, and your doctors. If your claim is accepted, you will receive medical coverage and wage loss benefits.
Workers’ compensation should pay for all necessary medical treatment related to your work injury. This includes the cost of doctors’ visits, hospital stays, prescriptions, and medical equipment. You can also receive benefits if you need time off work or if your injury causes permanent impairment.
If the insurance company denies your claim, you can challenge its decision with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry (DLI). (For common grounds for a denial, see Denied Workers’ Compensation Claims.) To do so, you must file a claim petition with the DLI within three years of the date that a First Report of Injury form was filed in your case. If the form was never filed, you have six years from the date of your injury to file your petition.
Many workers can handle the initial workers’ comp claim process on their own. If the insurance company readily accepts your claim and pays your benefits, you may not need to hire a lawyer. However, if the insurance company denies your claim or disputes the amount of benefits you are entitled to, you should consider hiring a lawyer. This is especially true if you need to attend a workers’ comp hearing, which follow complex procedural rules. For more information, see Should I Hire a Workers’ Comp Attorney or Can I Handle My Own Case?