Can a Teacher File for Workers’ Compensation?September 6, 2021
When most people think about Workers’ Compensation, they think about construction workers getting injured on the job. Rarely do people consider the perils of teachers suffering an on-the-job injury or illness. However, classroom work does involve risk to teachers.
If a teacher gets injured at work, filing a Workers’ Compensation claim is not as straightforward as it is for other businesses, partly because teachers work only a portion of the year. Therefore, if you are a teacher and have been injured or gotten sick at work, you may be entitled to benefits under your employer’s Workers’ Compensation plan. But your claim may also be more complicated because of the shorter work year.
Common Teacher Injuries
Like any occupation, teachers are exposed to different types of hazards at work. Although many people may think that their chosen profession is low risk, if you are a teacher, you know that is not true. Depending on the subject you teach, the age of your students, and your school’s location, teacher safety can vary wildly. Some of the most common reasons you might need to file a Workers’ Compensation claim with your school’s policy follow below.
Repetitive stress. One of the most common work injuries suffered by people not in construction work, repetitive stress injuries can happen when a teacher moves their body in the same motion throughout the day. This could be writing on the chalkboard or dry erase board, making check marks when grading papers, or even typing long emails and documents on a computer. These activities can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome and tendinitis. These injuries can be extremely painful and can lead to permanent disability.
Slip and fall injuries. With children around, accidents and spills are bound to happen. Food and drink are commonly spilled by youngsters, even outside the cafeteria. Floors in schools are routinely cleaned and waxed to keep the school clean and looking nice. Bathroom water can easily be spilled onto the floor. All of these create hazards for teachers rushing from one classroom to the next or trying to fit in a bathroom break between bells. It is easy for you to slip and fall because of numerous hazards you face in a school.
Toxic exposure. Toxic exposure is not usually associated with being a risk for a teacher. But many schools face budget constraints and have difficulty maintaining a safe and toxic-free environment. As a teacher, you spend many hours every day exposed to these toxic chemicals, fumes, and odors. These may include:
- Moisture damage
- Excessive dust
- Toxic fumes
If you notice symptoms of any of these illnesses, it is important that you see a doctor right away. Proving that your exposure to any of these toxic conditions happened at your school will be challenging, so having your doctor’s notes and recommendations is key to your Workers’ Compensation claim’s success.
Work-related stress. Especially in today’s work environment, work-related stress is becoming more common for Workers’ Compensation claims. You face countless pressure at work:
- Overcrowded classes
- Parent pressure
- Aging buildings
- Old technology
- Supply shortages
- Inefficient administrative support
Add to all that the political nature of today’s schools and whether children and teachers should be required to wear a mask to help keep everyone safe, you face extreme workplace stress on a daily basis. This can lead to depression, anxiety, and sleep disorders that are not only detrimental to your health but also reduce your effectiveness at being a good teacher.
Subject-related injuries. Some teachers face additional workplace hazards because of the courses they teach. Think of a science teacher who is constantly running experiments for students. These experiments could take a wrong turn and leave the teacher with a chemical burn or other injury. Think of gym teachers who teach several classes per day, doing the same repetitive motions over and over. Every teacher may face potential hazards based on the courses they teach.
Illness. Any teacher, especially one who teaches young students, knows that illnesses spread like wildfire in classrooms. You spend every day in close contact with dozens of students, increasing your risk of getting a bacterial or viral infection. If you get sick and can prove you got sick at work, you could be entitled to benefits under your school’s Workers’ Compensation policy.
Hearing loss. Although hearing loss seems like an injury that would occur only to construction or factory workers, teachers face loud noises all the time. School bells, slamming doors, loud students, pep rallies, and all sorts of other events can cause teachers to lose hearing, sometimes permanently. If your hearing is getting worse or you have lost hearing because of an event or incident at school, you may be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits.
Workplace violence. Workplace violence is unfortunate and, even more tragically, it is happening with increased intensity at schools. Students may get into fights, they may bring weapons to school, parents may get angry at you for a grade you gave their child, among many other scenarios. If you have been injured at your school because of any type of violence, even if you were not physically touched, you may still be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits.
What Workers’ Compensation Benefits Cover
Workers’ Compensation insurance is required for almost every business, including your school. This type of insurance covers employees like you who suffer on-the-job injuries. Workers’ Compensation insurance does not look to fault but may bar you from getting benefits if you intentionally injured yourself at work.
Your employer’s Workers’ Compensation policy should, at a minimum, cover your:
- Medical bills
- Lost wages
- Prescription medication
- Medical equipment
It is important to note that the nature and extent of your injuries will play a vital role in which benefits and how much you receive. To be sure, the benefits you get from Workers’ Compensation will not cover any mental distress or anguish you have suffered because of your injuries. To recover additional compensation such as that, you would need to file a personal injury claim for damages against the school, where you would need to allege and prove that the school acted negligently.
Your Workers’ Compensation benefits may also not begin immediately. Some policies, for example, have a two-week waiting period. You should still receive reimbursement for any medical bills you have paid, and the insurance should cover any upcoming bills, but you may have to use paid time off to get a paycheck in the short term.
If your injuries are more severe, however, your employer’s Workers’ Compensation policy may cover you for a longer period. When your injury is determined to be a permanent injury that prevents you from returning to work as a teacher, your Workers’ Compensation policy may have to pay you an estimated amount of your income for the rest of your life so that you can continue to support yourself. The right lawyer may be able to help you increase the amount of compensation you can get in this unfortunate situation.
Baltimore Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Help Teachers Get Benefits
If you are a teacher and have been injured or become ill at work or at a school event, speak with the Baltimore Workers’ Compensation lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton. You may be entitled to benefits under your school’s Workers’ Compensation plan. To find out the benefits for which you may be entitled and to take the steps necessary to get those benefits, reach out to us today. Call us at 844-556-4LAW (4529) or contact us online for a free consultation.
Located in Baltimore, we serve clients throughout Maryland.