Workers' Compensation

This page briefly explains how the Minnesota Workers' Compensation Law applies to work-related injuries or illnesses that happen on or after Oct. 1, 1995. This is not  a complete description of the workers' compensation system. The complete laws covering workers' compensation can be found in the Minnesota Statutes.

This non-copyrighted material is reproduced, with our reformatting and  graphics, from the website of the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry, to whom we express our sincere appreciation.  The links section of our home page includes a link to the Department of Labor and Industry where changes and updates to this material may be found.

Disclaimer

Thank you for visiting the Sidney L. Brennan, Jr., Attorney at Law web page. Please note that the information located on this site is not intended to provide specific legal advice. Some of the information may be outdated. The law changes daily and we are not able to update the information on the web site that often. You should consult with an attorney and not rely on any information contained herein regarding your specific situation or concern.

We welcome the receipt of electronic mail. Please be advised, however, that the act of sending electronic mail to Sidney L. Brennan, Jr. or to Brennan Law Office does not in itself create an attorney-client relationship. We will neither accept requests for legal advice nor offer specific advice over the internet.

On this page

  • Disclaimer
  • Workers' compensation overview
  • Helpful hints for injured workers
  • What is the purpose of workers' compensation?
  • Who pays the workers' compensation benefits?
  • Who is the insurer?
  • What about worker's rights?
  • Note to union members
  • What should I do when I am injured?
  • What does the employer do?
  • What does the insurance company do?
  • What if my claim is denied?
  • What benefits do I get?
  • Who chooses my doctor?
  • What if I need help returning to work?
  • What are vocational rehabilitation services?
  • How do I get more information?
  • Problems with my claim
  • Fraud warning
  • Who can answer my questions?

Workers' compensation overview

Workers' compensation:

  • helps you return to work as soon as reasonably possible;
  • returns you, as close as possible, to the income you had before the injury;
  • provides compensation for permanent loss of function or the inability to earn an income;
  • pays part of your wage loss;
  • pays for all reasonable medical and vocational rehabilitation costs related to the injury;
  • pays benefits to dependents for a work-related death.

Helpful hints for injured workers

  • Read and bookmark this page.
  • Save copies of all case documents, letters, forms, compensation checks and medical bills.
  • Keep track of your mileage for vocational rehabilitation and medical visits to qualify for reimbursements.
  • Save notes of phone conversations.
  • Put your name, Social Security number and date of injury on all papers and forms sent to the Department of Labor and Industry to help process them quickly. Clearly identify your employer and its insurer.
  • Inform your employer about your medical progress and plans to return to work.

What is the purpose of workers' compensation?
The workers' compensation system provides benefits if you become injured or ill from your job. Workers' compensation covers injuries or illnesses caused or made worse by work or the workplace. Workers' compensation does not cover self-inflicted injuries or injuries caused by intoxication. You do not have to prove that the accident or illness was your employer's fault or that it was not your fault.
Workers' compensation:

  • pays for reasonably necessary medical services related to the injury;
  • pays compensation for part of your wage loss or inability to earn a full income;
  • pays compensation for permanent loss of use of or loss of body function;
  • pays benefits to dependents for a work-related death;
  • pays for vocational rehabilitation services if you cannot return to the job or to the employer you had before your injury.

Who pays the workers' compensation benefits?
Most employers purchase workers' compensation policies from insurance companies. Some employers are approved to be self-insured; they pay the benefits themselves.

Either insurance companies or approved self-insured employers pay benefits to injured workers for wage-loss and permanent loss of use of body functions. Insurers pay the medical and vocational rehabilitation costs directly to the service providers. Insurers reimburse employees for medical expenses such as mileage and prescriptions.

State law sets the benefit levels. Insurers file benefit payments information with the Department of Labor and Industry. The department checks that the benefits paid by the insurers are correct. Unless your employer violates the law by being uninsured, the department does not pay benefits.

Who is the workers' compensation insurer?
Employers must display the Employee Rights and Responsibilities poster which includes the name of their workers' compensation insurer company. If you cannot find the poster at your workplace or if the insurer's name is not on it, ask your employer. You can also call the Department of Labor and Industry's Insurance Verification Unit at (651) 296-2170 or toll-free at 1-800-342-5354 to learn the insurer's name.

What about the worker's rights?
State law backs your right to file for workers' compensation benefits. You do not have to pay for any workers' compensation benefits. State law requires employers to have workers' compensation insurance to pay for all workers' compensation benefits or be approved for self insurance. Your employer cannot:

  • take the cost of workers' compensation insurance from your wages;
  • prevent you from reporting your work-related injury;
  • threaten you or take action against you for filing for workers' compensation benefits.

The Department of Labor and Industry's workers' compensation files are private; besides state agency staff, the files contents can be examined only by:

  • the employee;
  • the employer;
  • the appropriate insurer;
  • the dependents of a decreased employee; or
  • a person who has been authorized in writing by the employee to view it.

The employee has access to his or her medical record and the right to release access to it. The employer, insurer and the Department of Labor and Industry can obtain written medical information directly related to a current claim for workers' compensation without the need for authorization by the employee. Anyone else requesting copies of existing medical records and reports must get signed authorization from the employee and they must provide the signed authorization and a written request to the health care provider.

Note to union members
Some unions and employers, especially in the construction industry, may have negotiated different methods for providing some benefits. Contact your union representative for further information.

What should I do when I am injured?

  • Do not wait, report your injury to your supervisor as soon as possible.
  • Get prompt medical care -- read Who chooses my doctor, below.
  • Inform your employer about your medical condition and when you can return to work.
  • Call the insurer if you have questions or problems with your claim. Call the Department of Labor and Industry if you continue to have problems.
  • After two weeks from the first day of lost time or lost wages resulting from the injury, you should contact your employer or insurer if:
    • you have not received a check for lost wages, or
    • you have not received a Notice of Insurer's Primary Liability Determination from the insurer saying it is denying workers' compensation benefits.

What does the employer do?

  • Your employer fills out the First Report of Injury form;
  • Your employer then sends the completed First Report of Injury to the insurance company, unless your employer is self-insured.

What does the insurer do?

  • After you have reported the injury, the insurer investigates the injury report and makes an initial decision about whether to accept or deny your claim.
  • If you are disabled for more than three days because of the injury, the insurer must send a copy of the First Report of Injury to you and file the form with the Department of Labor and Industry. The insurance company or the self-insured employer makes all benefit payments. The Department of Labor and Industry does not pay benefits unless your employer is uninsured.

After you have reported the injury to your employer, the insurance company or the self-insured employer investigates the injury report, and initially decides whether the injury is work-related.

If you are unable to work more than three days because of the injury, the insurance company or self-insured employer has to :

  • send a copy of the First Report of Injury to you and file it with the Department of Labor and Industry;
  • start paying or deny workers' compensation benefits within14 days after your employer knows about your lost worktime injury;
  • pay other benefits in a timely manner.

You should contact your employer or its insurance company if after two weeks you have not received a check for lost wages or a notice from the insurance company or self-insured employer saying it is denying workers' compensation benefits; or if your medical bills are not paid within one month after the doctor submits them to the insurer or self-insured employer.

What if my claim is denied?
If the insurance company or self-insured employer refuses to pay your claim, you will receive a Notice of Denial of Liability. The notice must give the reason and facts explaining why your claim was denied.

If you disagree with the denial, you should first talk with the claim adjuster. The claim adjuster is the person at the insurance company or self-insured employer who handles your claim. Read the section Problems with my claim, below.

You may need help returning to work even if your claim for benefits has been denied. Call or e-mail Department of Labor and Industry's Vocational Rehabilitation Unit to request a rehabilitation consultation. You can call the Twin Cities number directly at (651) 297-1114 or call the toll-free number, 1-800-342-5354, and ask for the Vocational Rehabilitation Unit.

What benefits do I get:

... if I am temporarily unable to work?
You will receive wage-loss benefits if you are unable to work more than three days because of your injury. The benefit is called Temporary Total Disability (TTD) and is designed to replace two-thirds of the before-tax weekly wages at the time of the injury. The box below shows the upper and lower benefit limits.

At first, TTD is not paid for the first three days you are unable to work. TTD is paid for the first three days if you cannot work and it has been 10 or more days from the first day of lost time. The insurer or self-insured employer must send your benefit checks at the same time you were normally paid.

Weekly workers' gross weekly wage

Compensation rate

$922.50 or more

$615

$156 to $922.50

2/3 of wage

$104 to $156

$104

Less than $104

total wage

If your wages changed weekly before you were injured, call the claim adjuster for information about how to compute your average wage. Your employer may need to send weekly pay information to the insurer.

TTD is paid for up to 104 weeks, until one of the following occurs:

  • you return to work;
  • you have been released to work without any physical restrictions from the work injury;
  • you retire for reasons other than your injury;
  • 90 days have passed after you reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) or the end of an approved retraining program -- MMI is the date when your injury has improved as much as a doctor says it can;
  • other events occur that can be legal reasons for stopping your benefits.

The insurer or self-insured employer must send you a Notice of Intent to Discontinue Benefits before stopping your ongoing benefits. In some legal instances, your benefits can start again.

This is only a brief explanation of TTD benefit payments, call the Department of Labor and Industry for more information about how the law applies to your claim.

... if I return to work at a lower wage?
If you return to work and, because of the injury, you earn less than before your injury, you may qualify for Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits. TPD pays two-thirds of the difference between your old wage and your new wage. A maximum of 225 weeks of TPD can be paid for the period up to 450 weeks after the date of injury.

... if my injury is permanent?
Some injuries are permanent, for example, you may have lost part of a finger or your back will never function as it did before the injury. If you have a permanent injury, you will receive Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) benefits. The level of disability sets the amount of PPD benefits paid. PPD is paid in weekly amounts after your temporary total disability benefit ends.

... if I never return to work?
Sometimes a work injury or illness prevents you from returning to any type of work and then you may be eligible for Permanent Total Disability (PTD) benefits. PTD benefits are two-thirds of your before-tax weekly wages, with a minimum of 65 percent of the statewide average weekly wage. PTD benefits have the same upper dollar limit as temporary total disability, with an annual cost-of-living increase starting four years after the injury date. Call the Department of Labor and Industry for more details.

... if I lose my life?
Dependents of a worker who dies because of a work-related accident or disease may be eligible for dependents' benefits. The weekly benefits are based on the number of dependents and the worker's wage.

... if I need medical benefits?
Your workers' compensation insurer pays all reasonable medical bills for your work-related injury; this includes chiropractic and physical therapy sessions. The insurer will also pay for medical tests, prescriptions and mileage for medical appointments.

The Medical Fee Schedule limits the amount insurers pay for treatments. The Department of Labor and Industry has developed treatment standards to help determine if treatment is reasonable. The doctor is not allowed to ask you to pay additional fees or to pay for unnecessary treatments. The insurer will not pay for treatments unrelated to the workers' compensation injury.

Make sure your doctor is regularly sending all bills and other medical information to the insurer. The insurance company may refuse to pay bills if the doctor has not sent information that explains the services provided.

Who chooses my doctor

... if there is a certified managed care plan?
Your employer must tell you if you are covered by a certified managed care plan. The employer must post a notice that shows the name and phone number of a contact person who can answer questions about managed care. The notice must also have a 24-hour phone number that explains the services.

When you report an injury, your employer must tell you how to get treatment from a doctor in the managed care plan. You may ask the employer, the insurer or the managed care plan for a list of the doctors in the plan.

You must go to a doctor in the plan unless:

  • you need emergency medical care;
  • you have a history of treating with another doctor and you want to continue to see that doctor;
  • you live or work too far from a doctor in the plan. (There is a 30-mile limit in the seven-county Twin Cities area and a 50-mile limit in all other areas of Minnesota.)

... if there is not a certified managed care plan?
If your employer does not have a certified managed care plan, you may choose any doctor. Your employer may also ask its own doctor to examine you.

Some employers that do not have a certified managed care plan have a group of doctors to provide treatment for workers' compensation injuries. You are not required to go to a doctor in this group for treatment of your work-related injury.

... if I need surgery?
If your doctor determines you need surgery, you might want to talk with the claim adjuster. A second opinion may be needed unless it is an emergency or you and the insurer agree that a second opinion is not necessary. The treatment standards contain information about surgery that will be approved. If you do not want to have surgery, you cannot be forced to have surgery.

... if I am able to go back to work?
You may be able to return to work before you have fully recovered from your injury. You may be able to return to the job you had before your injury, to a similar job or to a different job.

Discuss your job duties and your activity level with your doctor. Based on your medical condition, your doctor may set work restrictions. Ask your doctor for a written statement of your work restrictions or a copy of a Report of Work Ability and give it to your employer as soon as possible.

Your employer must try to provide work you can do within your restrictions. The work should pay as close as possible to your old income. Many employers have modified work injured workers can do while they are recovering from their injuries. Employers with more than 15 workers can be penalized if they do not offer work.

If you feel that the job offered is not appropriate given your work restrictions, tell your employer, the insurer and your doctor. If this does not correct the problem, you should call the Department of Labor and Industry.

Your temporary total disability benefits may be permanently discontinued if you refuse a job consistent with an approved vocational rehabilitation plan, or a vocational rehabilitation plan has not been filed and you refuse an offer of gainful employment within your physical condition.

If you have permanent limitations, your employer might not have work you can do. Then you may be eligible for vocational rehabilitation. For more information, read What if I need help returning to work, below.

What if I need help returning to work?
Talk with your employer and your treating doctor about going back to work. Your employer may provide services to help you return to work. If you cannot return to your employer because of your injury, vocational rehabilitation services may help you find work with a new employer. Vocational rehabilitation might not begin unless requested by you, your employer or the insurer.

What are vocational rehabilitation services?
These services help injured workers return to suitable work; they include help:

  • changing job duties to fit abilities;
  • finding work with a different employer; and
  • training for a new job.

A qualified rehabilitation consultant (QRC) coordinates vocational rehabilitation services. The QRC works with you, your health care provider, your employer and the insurance company to help you return to work.

How do I ask for vocational rehabilitation?
You, your employer or the insurance company may ask for vocational rehabilitation at any time. To ask for a vocational rehabilitation consultation, you should notify the insurance company in writing. Your employer or the insurance company might provide a QRC; you may select a QRC.

The next step is to meet with the QRC to learn if vocational rehabilitation will help you return to work. If you are eligible for vocational rehabilitation, the QRC will help plan the services you need.

You can choose which QRC you want to work with, until 60 days after the QRC files a rehabilitation service plan. After that time, you and the insurer have to agree on any QRC change. If you and the insurer cannot agree, you can file a request for dispute resolution services at the Department of Labor and Industry.

How do I get more information?
Call the Department of Labor and Industry for more information about vocational rehabilitation or information about how to find a QRC. A vocational rehabilitation information pamphlet can be mailed to you.

Problems  with my claim
Most workers' compensation claims are paid without any problems, but if you think the insurance company is not paying you correctly or if your medical bills are not being paid, you should follow these steps:

  1. Call the claim adjuster -- write down the date, time and adjuster's name for your records. Explain the problem and try to work it out; many problems are fixed simply with a telephone call.
  2. Make sure the insurance company really must pay for what you want. For example, although the insurance company must pay for your medical care, it does not usually have to pay for household services that are not medically prescribed. Call the Department of Labor and Industry to see if the law allows the benefit you think you should have.
  3. Discuss your problem with a specialist at the Department of Labor and Industry. The specialist will help you resolve the dispute or help arrange for an informal conference. Most disputes can be avoided if you and the claim adjuster are willing to reach an agreement.
  4. If the problem has not been resolved, the Department of Labor and Industry specialist can explain the dispute resolution options and help you decide what is best for your problem. You may need to ask for a formal hearing before a compensation judge by filing a Claim Petition form. The specialist can send you any forms you need to start the process.

Fraudwarning
It is a crime to lie or give false information to an insurance company to receive workers' compensation benefits. The law states: "Any person who, with intent to defraud, receives workers' compensation benefits to which the person is not entitled by knowingly misrepresenting, misstating or failing to disclose any material fact is guilty of theft and shall be sentenced pursuant to section 609.52, subdivision 3."

Employers and other parties who lie or give false information to gain at the expense of others are also subject to prosecution for fraud. Information about workers' compensation fraud should be sent to the Investigative Services Unit at (651) 297-5797.

Who can answer my questions?
Your employer or its insurance company can answer most questions about your claim. If you need more help, contact the Department of Labor and Industry.

Call the department for information about:

  • monetary benefits;
  • calculating benefits;
  • late payments;
  • when benefits start or stop;
  • medical bills;
  • changing doctors;
  • rehabilitation assistance;
  • permanent partial disability.

Twin Cities area and southern Minnesota:

Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry
443 Lafayette Road N.
St. Paul, MN 55155
(651) 296-2432 or 1-800-342-5354

Duluth and northern Minnesota:

Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry
5 N. Third Avenue W.
Suite 400
Duluth, MN 55802
(218) 723-4670 or 1-800-365-4584

TTY for the Hearing Impaired (651) 297-4198