What is Workers’ Compensation and Why Does it Exist?

By: Cody N. Guarnieri, Esq.

In nearly all cases, if you are injured at work in Connecticut, you will not be able to bring a law suit against your employer. This is because Connecticut, like nearly all other states, has developed a Workers' Compensation system to address injured workers. This system is built on compromise. Both injured workers and employers have something to gain, and lose, due to the Workers' Compensation system. For injured employees, as long as the injury can be tied to their employment by a medical professional, compensation for medical costs and wage replacement (both immediately following the injury and in the future) can be obtained without considerable delays and the costs of litigation. Further, obtaining these benefits generally does not require proving that the employer or conditions of the employment caused the injury only that it occurred in the course of employment and arose out of the employment. However, compensation is based purely on relative earning capacity and the degree of injury to the worker. There is no pain and suffering and there are no punitive damages. Moreover, employers can no longer raise the defenses of assumption of risk or contributory negligence on the part of the injured worker. This means that the workers' compensation system will not force an employer to pay an employee as a means of "punishing" the bad acts of the employer.

For employers, there is no risk of an enormous judgment obtained by the injured employer after a jury trial and plaintiff's verdict. However, that is not to say that the Workers' Compensation system is not without costs to employers. All employers are required under Connecticut law to either purchase commercial workers' compensation insurance, or self-insure their employees against injuries occurring on the job. Moreover, the insurer or employer cannot disclaim coverage on the basis that the employer did not "cause" the injury to the employee, as long as the employment was a "substantial contributing factor" for the injury.

Thus, the Connecticut Workers' Compensation regime burdens and benefits both injured employees and employers. Compensation is readily obtainable with less time and fewer obstacles, but may be considerably less than what could be obtainable through civil litigation.