Statistics show that Wyoming’s workforce grew in 2022. According to data from the Wyoming Department of Workforce Services, from the first quarter of 2022 to the first quarter of 2023, total employment in the state increased by 2.4% or 6,337 jobs.
Due to this development, it is reasonable to expect a greater chance of workplace accidents. To protect workers’ well-being, the Department of Labor enforces occupational and health standards in the workplace and offers on-site consultation programs in Wyoming.
These programs seek to motivate employers to improve their employees' safety. Three employers in Wyoming made the “Zeroes Heroes” list for having zero incidents or accidents in 2022. These companies are Phillips 66, Rock Springs Terminal; Phillips 66, Casper Station; and Black Hills Energy, Cheyenne Prairie Generating Station.
However, even if employers follow comprehensive health and safety programs, workplace accidents may still happen at any time. Because of this risk, Wyoming employees must be aware of their rights to compensation in case they suffer an injury while performing their jobs.
This article focuses on workers’ compensation laws in Wyoming and the process of applying for benefits to help injured employees recover from their losses.
Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Insurance Requirements
Wyoming-based employees who have been hurt or injured at work are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. The law requires employers to acquire workers’ compensation insurance from the State of Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Program.
Because Wyoming is a monopolistic state, it does not allow businesses to purchase workers’ compensation insurance from private insurance carriers. However, policies obtained through the state fund do not protect employers from injury lawsuits. Employers may instead purchase stop-gap coverage that can be added to their general liability policy from a private insurance company.
Workers’ compensation insurance covers all part-time, full-time, seasonal, or occasional employees. However, there are types of employees and occupations that are exempt from workers’ compensation insurance. These include casual laborers, federal government and private household employees, volunteers working for organizations, nurses working for private companies, and professional athletes.
Under the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Act, independent contractors, sole proprietors, corporate officers, partners, and limited liability company members are also exempt from workers’ compensation coverage.
Does Workers’ Compensation in Wyoming Cover Out-of-State Accidents?
No. Workers’ compensation in Wyoming does not cover out-of-state accidents. Employees who need to travel out of the state for work need to purchase a policy from the state they are assigned to. If they are working in different states, they can have a policy that covers multiple states.
What Are the Possible Penalties for Not Having Workers’ Compensation Insurance in Wyoming?
Employers that fail to provide workers’ compensation insurance to their employees may face serious penalties. They may be ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000 and spend up to one year in prison. Moreover, noncompliant employers will be responsible for all expenses, such as medical costs, lost wages, and legal fees, if their employees are injured in a work-related accident.
Wyoming Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation insurance in Wyoming protects employees from unbearable expenses in case they have been involved in an accident resulting in severe injuries or illnesses. Workers’ compensation benefits in the state fall into the following four categories:
After a workplace accident, victims’ employers must file a claim with their insurance service provider. Once the claim is approved, workers’ compensation insurance will pay for the patient’s medical costs, including medications, doctor’s visits, surgery and emergency room care, and chronic pain management. It also covers equipment costs if victims need wheelchairs and crutches.
Workers who suffer permanent disability need vocational rehabilitation support. This type of benefit covers retraining costs to allow an employee to acquire new certifications and skills that can be used to continue their work. It typically covers skills assessment and testing, job training, tuition, job development and placement, and resume assistance.
This type of benefit covers lost income if the employee is unable to work. The amount depends on their earning capacity. There are four types of disabilities. The following are:
Temporary partial disability: The employee can still work but at a limited capacity.
Temporary total disability: The employee cannot work for a certain period of time. They can go back to work once they undergo surgery.
Permanent partial disability: The employee can go back to work even though they have permanent injuries. Their workloads and earning capacity will also be affected.
Permanent total disability: The employee cannot go back to their previous jobs due to their lifelong or permanent injuries or illnesses.
This type of benefit is received by the deceased’s family members, including the spouse, an elderly parent living in their home, and minor children. Death benefits cover the burial costs and funeral expenses of the victim.
However, not all injuries are covered by workers’ compensation insurance in Wyoming. These types of injuries include the following:
Self-inflicted or intentional injuries;
Injuries sustained during lunch breaks;
Accidental injuries that happened while the employee was under the influence of drugs and alcohol;
Injuries that occurred while the employee was about to commit a serious crime.
How to File a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Wyoming
While suffering from severe injuries and illnesses, individuals in Wyoming also need to think of ways they can fight for their rights as employees. After an accident in their workplace, their employers must also take action to enable victims to receive maximum benefits. Employees and employers should work together to make the claiming process easier.
The following sections can help both parties navigate the workers’ compensation insurance claim filing process.
When Is the Deadline for Workers’ Compensation Claims in Wyoming?
Employees in Wyoming who have sustained illnesses or injuries due to workplace accidents are only given a specific amount of time to report the incident and file a workers’ compensation claim. They should file a claim by the latest date given below:
Within one year from the date of the injury or after the employee receives their medical diagnosis for their illnesses or injuries resulting from a job-related accident.
Within three years from the date of the employee’s last exposure to a hazard.
Moreover, employees need to file a report with their employers within 72 hours after the incident, and employers have to submit a report to the Workers’ Compensation Division within 10 days.
A Step-By-Step Guide to Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Wyoming
In Wyoming, the process of applying for a workers’ compensation claim is not easy, especially if the employee is severely ill or injured. It is a long and time-consuming process that requires more patience. Dealing with different legalities also makes the filing journey complicated, especially if individuals do not work with an attorney.
After learning about the legal foundation of workers’ compensation insurance in Wyoming, injured employees in the state can follow this step-by-step guide to filing for workers’ compensation benefits.
1. Report the Incident.
An injured employee must report the accident to their company or supervisor within 72 hours after the incident. The victim’s written accident report must explain the cause of the incident or injury. If the employee or their representative fails to report the incident within the given period, their workers’ compensation claim might be delayed or denied.
2. Seek Medical Attention.
If an employee has sustained serious injuries, they must go to the nearest hospital or clinic immediately. If the medical service provider asks for their case or claim number, the employee must explain that it will be issued by the Wyoming Workers’ Compensation office.
3. Submit a Written Injury Report.
Employees who have been hurt in a workplace accident must submit a written report to Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation within 10 days after the accident. They must fill out and complete the Wyoming Report of Injury form.
Each report of injury has a unique nine-digit case number. Victims must use the case number when obtaining medical care and seeking assistance in writing or by phone. If the employer does not have an available form, workers can contact the nearest Wyoming Workforce Center or call (307) 777-7441.
Employees must submit the report of injury form to a local Workers’ Compensation representative or office. They can also mail the form to Wyoming Workers’ Safety and Compensation, P.O. Box 20207, Cheyenne.
4. Report Wage Statement.
Employees need to fill out the wage information section in the Report of Injury form. The section must be completed to allow employees to receive benefits beyond the waiting period of more than three days. Workers need to include gross hourly wages and overtime payments. If there are weeks with no wages, they must explain why there are no wages during those weeks.
5. Wait for the Workers’ Compensation Division’s Decision.
The Workers’ Compensation Division must review the victim’s report of injury within 15 days. Employees may receive an initial review letter if the division cannot make a decision due to a lack of information. The letter provides the additional information needed.
In some cases, the division needs medical records. Employees or their doctors may submit the documents by the due date indicated on the Initial Review letter. If they fail to submit the documents within the given period of time, their claims might be denied.
After receiving the additional documents, the division has an additional 45 days to review the report before issuing a Final Determination letter.
6. Issuance of a Final Determination Letter.
The division must issue a Final Determination letter within 60 days. The letter indicates whether the claim is approved or denied. If the claim is denied, the division will provide reasons for its decision. It will also inform the employee about their right to schedule a hearing.
If the employee changes their physical or mailing address and telephone number, they must inform the Division in writing. The employee also needs to notify the division immediately if they go back to their work, either in a part-time or full-time capacity. They must inform the division whether they are working for their previous company or a new company.
Employees should also keep in mind that their claims analysts cannot disclose their claims to other parties except their employers. However, they can authorize their claims analysts by completing a Release of Information form. The form must be mailed to the Workers’ Compensation Division.
What Should One Do If a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Wyoming Has Been Denied?
In Wyoming, if a claim has been denied, the employee can request a hearing. The claimant must make the request in writing and submit it to the hearing examiner within 15 days from the date the notice of final determination from the Workers’ Compensation Division was received.
During this instance, the employee can work with an attorney who will advocate for their rights as workers. The attorney can represent the employee during appeal hearings and help them present evidence that supports their claims.
The evidence may be in the form of documentation or witness testimonies from medical service providers. The employee can also contact insurance companies and ask them to reconsider their appeals.
Workers in Wyoming also need to be aware of why some workers’ compensation claims are denied. They need to keep in mind that not all injuries that occur in the workplace are compensable.
In some instances, claims are denied because employees cannot properly determine the cause of their injuries. To determine the root cause of the injury, an independent examination might be needed.
Claims are also rejected if injuries are not related to employment activities. For example, if an employee has a minor scrape on their finger due to a household chore and does not treat it immediately, which results in a major infection and amputation, the company’s insurance provider will not cover the expenses.
Moreover, if the employee does not attend their medical appointments, their claim is most likely to be denied. The insurance company might think that the employee is no longer in pain because they have not been showing up for their doctor’s appointments.
Legal Resources for Injured Workers in Wyoming
It is important for both employees and employers to know their rights if accidents occur in the workplace. In addition to general information about workers’ compensation insurance and how injured employees can pursue benefits to cover their medical expenses, there are various organizations that can help with their legal issues. The following section lists some of the organizations from which injured workers can seek legal assistance.
Legal Aid of Wyoming
The Legal Aid of Wyoming is a federally funded law firm that caters to low-income earners in the state. It provides counsel and representation to plaintiffs dealing with civil cases. The nonprofit organization handles matters involving employment, family, and real estate law. It also takes on public benefit, consumer debt, and federal tax cases.
Workforce Wyoming Services
The Department of Workforce Services helps communities in Wyoming adopt fair and legal employment. It enforces child labor laws and the fair payment of wages. The organization also promotes a safe working environment for employees in the state. It caters to employees, injured workers, job seekers, individuals with disabilities, parents of young children, and veterans. It helps individuals obtain Social Security benefits. It also offers settlement, training, internal audit and compliance, administrative and fiscal, and case support services.
Wyoming State Bar Association
The Wyoming State Bar Association has been providing services for more than 100 years. It aims to assist legal professionals in the practice of law and regulate the practice of law. The organization also promotes quality legal services for the public. Its Emeritus Attorney Program encourages experienced attorneys to volunteer and help residents of Wyoming who cannot afford legal assistance. The pro bono services provide legal advice to individuals dealing with family and civil law cases. Volunteer attorneys offer petition and other legal document preparation services.
National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation
The National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation is a nonprofit organization serving Wyoming. The firm caters to employees in the private, state, or federal government and public or charter school sectors whose civil and human rights have been violated by companies or unions. It advocates for the rights of those experiencing violations and discrimination in the workplace.
University of Wyoming’s Defender Aid Clinic
The Defender Aid Clinic of the University of Wyoming serves people who cannot afford legal counsel. Its team represents individuals during state and federal district court proceedings. The clinic focuses on post-conviction litigation and takes on matters involving post-conviction claims. Student members of the clinic are the primary points of contact for DAC clients, Board of Parole members, prosecutors, and prison officials.
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