Top misconceptions about workers’ compensation claims in Minnesota

Employees in Minnesota should be aware of common misconceptions about workers’ compensation claims and injuries that may qualify for benefits.

Each year, thousands of workers in Mound and other parts of Minnesota are injured in the course of their jobs. In 2012, the most recent year with data available, over 70,000 work-related injuries occurred in the state, according to materials from the state Department of Labor and Industry. Unfortunately, many injury victims may fail to seek workers' compensation benefits due to common misunderstandings about the system.

It's not uncommon for injured workers to mistakenly believe they are not entitled to benefits or eligible to make claims. This makes it crucial for workers to understand and move past the following common misconceptions about workers' compensation benefits.

Fault matters

The Minnesota workers' compensation system is no-fault. Injuries that happen because workers are acting negligently are typically covered, and even injuries that result from horseplay may be compensable. However, employees cannot receive compensation for certain injuries, including intentional injuries and ones that occur when employees are engaging in forbidden activities.

Preexisting conditions aren't compensable

If a workers' job accelerates or aggravates a preexisting condition or injury, the ailment may still be compensable. However, the worker must show that his or her job was a significant causative factor in the worsening of the injury. If another factor contributed substantially to the injury, the worker may have trouble securing compensation.

Employers can retaliate

Under state law, workers in Minnesota can seek damages if their employers terminate them or threaten to fire them for filing workers' compensation claims. Employees may also seek damages if employers deliberately impede them in filing claims. Remedies may additionally be available to disabled employees whose employers refuse to make accommodations or provide due benefits.

Psychological injuries are excluded

There are several circumstances in which workers may receive compensation for work-related mental injuries. State law recognizes three types of compensable mental injuries:

  • Mental injuries that occur or worsen as a result of work-related physical injuries. The physical injury does not have to be the exclusive cause of the mental injury; workers simply must show that it was a significant contributing factor.
  • Some mental injuries that occur in the absence of physical trauma. At present, many psychological injuries aren't considered compensable. However, the Minnesota Supreme Court has ruled that workers who developed posttraumatic stress disorder on or after Oct. 1, 2013, may seek workers' compensation benefits.
  • Mental stress that gives rise to physical conditions or injuries. Workers who suffered exceptional levels of stress at their jobs may receive compensation for the resulting physical injury, rather than the underlying psychological injury.

Documenting these injuries may be more challenging than establishing a physical injury, however. It also may be more difficult for workers to show a causal connection between their jobs and psychological injuries.

Filing deadline is only three years

The statute of limitations for a workers' compensation claim is three years from the date of injury if the employer has filed a First Report of Injury. However, this deadline does not apply to workers who were physically or mentally incapacitated due to their injuries. These workers must file claims within three years of the date that the incapacitation ceases. If an employer did not file a First Report of Injury, the statute of limitations is extended to six years from the date of injury.

Legal representation is unnecessary

When injuries are relatively minor or carefully documented, workers may not need legal assistance. However, in many cases, securing appropriate compensation for a serious or permanent injury can be difficult. Consequently, workers should at least consider seeking legal advice to better understand the claims process and the challenges that they might face.