The Definition of Workplace Injury in Minnesota
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The Definition of “Workplace Injury” in Minnesota

Workers’ compensation pays benefits for injuries that employees suffer in the workplace. Employees can receive benefits for many different types of injuries and illnesses, but not every injury falls within workers’ compensation laws.

What Constitutes a Workplace Injury?

Minnesota law defines a workplace injury as a mental or physical injury “arising out of and in the course of employment”. (Minn. Stat. § 176.011, subd. 16.) Injured employees must be engaged in work for their employers when they are injured. In other words, you cannot receive workers’ compensation for an injury you suffer when you are not working. You must be on the clock performing work for the employer to which you make the claim for benefits.

What are the Most Common Workplace Injuries?

The term “physical injury” covers acute injuries, repetitive stress injuries, and injuries caused by occupational diseases. Acute injuries include broken bones, burns, cuts, and other medical issues that arise suddenly. Repetitive stress injuries arise over time due to repeated use of a body part or muscle. Occupational diseases are medical conditions “peculiar to the occupation in which the employee is engaged and due to causes in excess of the hazards ordinary of employment”. (Minn. Stat. § 176.011, subd. 15(a).) Workers exposed to certain chemicals due to the job they perform may have injuries such as skin rashes due to that exposure.

Workers’ compensation covers some mental impairments you suffer at work; namely, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). To recover for PTSD, a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist must diagnose you with the condition and it must arise out of your employment. (Minn. Stat. § 176.011, subd. 15(d).) Mental injuries are not compensable if they result from normal work-related actions such as receiving write-ups, being placed on a performance plan, layoffs, or terminations. (Minn. Stat. § 176.011, subd. 16.)

Sometimes, work-related physical injuries lead to mental injuries. For example, a worker who is acutely injured in a fall may later develop PTSD as a result. If the physical injury is compensable by the employer’s insurance and it contributed to the mental injury, both the physical and mental injuries qualify as workplace injuries for purposes of receiving benefits.

The reverse is true as well: work-related mental injuries sometimes lead to physical injuries, such as breathing problems from stress. If the mental injury is compensable by the employer’s insurance and it contributed to the physical injury, both the injuries qualify for purposes of receiving benefits.

How Long Do You Have to Report a Workplace Injury?

Unfortunately, many workers who sustain an injury in the workplace hesitate to report the injury because they are concerned about losing their jobs or being reprimanded by their employer. However, it is against Minnesota law to fire an employee for reporting a work injury or filing a workers’ comp claim.

It is vital to report your injury to your employer as soon as possible after the injury. In Minnesota, you are required to report a workplace injury within at least 180 days of the incident that caused the injury or of when you learned of the injury. The latter case may occur with a repetitive strain injury in which you may not have learned about the injury until you later experience symptoms and/or have visited your physician.

How Employers Should Respond to Workplace Injuries?

Employers are expected to respond quickly when a worker reports an injury in the workplace. The employer should also encourage or assist the employee as needed in getting medical attention regardless of how small the injury may appear in order to avoid negligence.

Employers have the responsibility to inform injured employees of their right to file a claim for workers’ compensation insurance. The business is also responsible for contacting its workers’ compensation insurance company when there has been an injury report from an employee.

Once the employee has recovered sufficiently, the employer has an obligation to welcome back the employee upon a return to work. The employer should not take any negative actions against the employee for his or her injury or for filing an unemployment compensation claim.

Wondering if your injury qualifies you for workers’ compensation benefits? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.