Almost all American workers are now covered by workers’ compensation. This is an automatic type of insurance program, based on a no-fault concept: if you are injured or disabled in connection with your job, you receive a set payment for your loss and reimbursement for any medical expenses, and you are eligible for weekly disability payments. Workers’ compensation is a mixed blessing for workers. On the one hand, the uniform laws and set schedules for payment increase the chances of getting mandatory compensation for your loss, and can cut down on the need for time-consuming and expensive litigation. On the other hand, these laws take away your right to sue your employer for negligence and to recover damages for pain and suffering. This means that you may not end up receiving the amount of compensation that you deserve. Time limits are extremely important in pursuing some of your rights under workers’ compensation laws, so consult with your union steward immediately if you’re hurt on the job. When in doubt about whether your injury is work-related, ask questions: you may learn, for example, that even some injuries that occur during your commute to or from work may be covered by the law.
—Adapted from The Union Member's Complete Guide, by Michael Mauer.