The Federal Employees Compensation Act was created to provide workers’ compensation insurance for injured federal workers. Presently there are twelve federal workers’ comp regional offices throughout the country. They are responsible for investigating and processing claims. Federal workers’ comp is managed by the U.S. Department of Labor.
Federal workers’ comp benefits are available for all federal workers except railroad workers, longshoremen, black lung coal workers, harbor workers, and members of the Armed Forces. These federal workers have coverage through separate insurance policies unique to the type of work they do.
The federal government and its agencies enjoy immunity from public employer liability and require workers to pursue all injury claims through the federal workers’ comp system.
Filing a Federal Workers’ Compensation Injury Claim
If you’re a federal worker who’s been injured on the job, there are several steps you must take to ensure you receive full benefits. (A complete federal workers’ compensation guide (C-11) and all forms are available on the U.S. Department of Labor’s website.)
- Notify your supervisor or go directly to your onsite health office. If your injuries are life-threatening, call 911.
- Complete a “Federal Employee’s Notice of Traumatic Injury and Claim for Continuation of Pay/Compensation” form (CA-1). For a work-induced disease, you need to complete a “Notice of Occupational Disease and Claim for Compensation” form (CA-2). You have only 30 days from the date of injury to file your form.
- Submit your CA-1 or CA-2 form and keep a copy for your records. When your department head completes his portion of the form, he will send it to the appropriate federal workers’ comp district office.
- One or more representatives from the regional office will investigate your claim. They will inform you by letter if the office believes there’s enough evidence to proceed with your claim. If necessary, they may ask you to submit additional information. If they deny your claim, you have the right to file an appeal.
- Choose a physician and get treatment. You may go to the private physician of your choice (this is unlike most state administered workers’ compensation plans, which require an injured worker to choose a company-approved physician). When deciding on a physician, be sure to select one who is familiar with federal workers’ comp procedures and forms, and who is willing to assist you during the process.
Federal Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Injured federal workers are entitled to payment of all medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses (medications, bandages, etc.), and vocational rehabilitation. If your injury prevents you from working, you’ll continue to receive full wages directly from the agency you work for up to 45 days from the date were injured.
After 45 days, federal workers’ comp begins paying your lost wages at a reduced rate. You receive two-thirds of your of your pre-injury wages if you have no dependents, and three-fourths of your pre-injury wages if you have one or more dependents. Federal workers’ comp benefits do not include any amount for your pain and suffering.
If your on-the-job injury or occupational disease results in a disability, you’ll receive a cash settlement in addition to lost wage benefits. Workers’ comp administrators calculate your settlement based on loss of earning capacity, type of disability (partial, temporary or permanent), and the loss or damage to specific body parts, organs and functions.
Survivor’s benefits are paid to the legal dependents of a worker who is killed while on the job. Sovereign immunity limits public employer liability in federal wrongful death suits.
Sovereign Immunity from Injury Lawsuits
The federal government and its agencies are immune from public employer liability, including personal injury claims by federal workers alleging government negligence. This immunity includes cases where one employee is injured by another while on the job. Under federal statutes, the government and its agencies are almost always immune from liability.
In the private sector, there are some instances where an injured worker may apply for workers’ compensation benefits and also pursue a separate third-party claim against the employer. Under federal law, negligence of any type or severity does not circumvent federal workers’ compensation restrictions. Sovereign immunity also prohibits federal employer liability in wrongful death suits.
Third-party Claims against Non-governmental Agencies
As a federal worker, you are prohibited from suing the federal government for an on-the-job injury. But there are some circumstances where you may be entitled to pursue a private third-party claim against a non-governmental entity. While federal employer liability is restricted by immunity, non-governmental entities have no such immunity.
A federal employee injured on the job must file an injury claim with the federal workers’ comp administration. If your on-the-job injury was caused by the negligence of a third party, who was not acting under the auspices of the federal government, then you may be able to also seek damages from that party in a separate lawsuit.
Example: Hit by drunk driver
Norma was a federal postal employee. She drove a U.S. postal truck, but spent the majority of her time walking her assigned route, delivering mail to private residences. One day, as she walked down a sidewalk, a car swerved off the road and ran her over. Norma sustained major injuries, including a broken femur, and face and head injuries.
When the police arrived, they administered a field sobriety test to the driver. He failed the test and the police arrested him for driving while intoxicated.
Norma correctly filed a federal workers’ compensation claim. She decided to consult with a personal injury attorney who said that federal law allowed her to file a third-party lawsuit against the driver. Norma hired the attorney to represent her.
Her attorney filed a lawsuit contending that the driver’s actions at the time he struck Norma were wholly negligent. The lawsuit claimed damages for her injuries and expenses. These included her medical bills, out-of-pocket expenses (medications, crutches, wheelchair, etc.), all her lost wages, and a substantial amount for her present and future pain and suffering.
The jury awarded Norma all the damages demanded in her lawsuit. The award exceeded the driver’s insurance policy limits, so Norma’s attorney pursued the driver’s personal assets to recover the difference between his policy limits and the jury verdict.
Reimbursing Federal Workers’ Compensation
Third-party lawsuits can take years before they finally settle or go to trial. In the meantime, federal workers’ compensation will pay for your medical bills and other expenses. If you are successful in a third-party lawsuit however, federal law states that you must reimburse the federal workers’ comp system for its payments.
The good news is, a third-party award is generally higher than the total amount paid by worker’s comp. You get to keep the difference between the amount workers’ comp paid, and the amount of your court award. This should include compensation for all your lost wages and your pain and suffering, which is not covered by workers’ comp.
Do You Need an Attorney?
If your injuries are minor (strains and sprains, minor cuts, abrasions and bruises), you probably don’t need an attorney for your federal workers’ comp claim. If your injuries are more serious (broken bones, internal injuries, scarring, serious burns, head and neck trauma), or your injury results in disability, you should immediately seek the counsel of an attorney with experience in federal workers’ compensation claims.
Most injury attorneys don’t charge a fee for an initial office consultation. If an attorney accepts your case, you won’t have to pay any legal fees in advance. You pay a percentage of your award, if and when your attorney settles or wins your case at trial.
When it comes to serious injuries or disability, especially in federal workers’ comp claims, you have everything to gain and nothing to lose by consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney.
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Visitor Questions on Issues with Work Injury Claims
Postal worker not getting help with injury? I am a postal worker injured on the job due to an obstacle installed in a walk way. I was the first of two employees injured before they attempted to correct the safety hazard. I reported the hazard and injury as soon as the Postmaster arrived, and finished out the work day. I went home... Read More >>
Contingency fees not permitted for federal workers comp cases? I was told that in FECA Circular No. 09-03, OWCP (Office of Workers Compensation Programs), the law states as follows: “Contingency fee arrangements are not permitted. The attorney must provide an itemized statement and an hourly rate for all services performed for a client. All of this information must be contained in the fee request.... Read More >>
Can I file a claim for Carpal Tunnel Syndrome? I am a federal employee and I have been complaining off and on for two years that my finger tips go numb at any given time. If I massage the tips of each finger (both hands) it finally gets better. I think I may have Carpal Tunnel Syndrome. Last night I awoke in extreme pain,... Read More >>
Who pays the medical bills for car accident while delivering mail? I was delivering mail on my rural route when a pickup truck rear ended my postal vehicle as I was stopped at a mail box. My extended arm hit the back of the window and my head hit the wall behind the seat. I was stunned and my arm swelled where it had hit. Fire... Read More >>
Two knee surgeries with replacement… I was injured at work as a postmaster, but they contested the injury because I was previously in the military. I had one surgery that didn’t go well, and then had a total knee replacement 7 months later. Three months after that I was hospitalized for 3 days with a blood clot under my knee.... Read More >>
Compensation for permanent nerve damage in my hand? I work for the post office, in the warehouse where the mail is sorted through a machine. The machine was was jammed with mail, so we turned it off, and while I went to unjam the mail that was stuck, my supervisor turned the machine back on and it sucked my hand in. I went... Read More >>
What are federal employees’ benefits after retirement? I worked as a nursing assistant at the Veterans Hospital in Tennessee. I hurt my back in 2000/2002 (can’t remember the date). I filled out the forms and was sent to an Oothopedic doctor and a neurologist. I was then sent to a pain clinic, where I get injections in the back when the pain... Read More >>
Mail carrier with tendonitis in left foot… I was a city letter carrier for 14 years for the United States Postal Service in SC and now I suffer with tendonitis in my left foot. After going on medical leave and undergoing physical therapy, my foot was the same. The doctor said that my only other alternative was surgery, but that he could... Read More >>
Scar on Forehead… I hit my head on some equipment hanging on the wall where I was working. The equipment had a screw sticking out of it and cut me on my forehead. There are no signs in the area to warn of the hazard. I work for the federal government. I did notify my supervisor of the... Read More >>
Injured Knee While Working as a City Bus Driver… I’m a city bus driver. I hit my left knee on the corner of the bus fare box and it got hurt very badly. I let my supervisor know about it after it after the accident. I filed a report with the city and they sent me to the company doctor. Do I have to... Read More >>
Workmans comp giving me the run around… I was injured at work. I deliver mail and while I was leaning over to grab a bundle the hatch fell on me, injuring my head, neck, back and arm. I went to the emergency room where I received staples in my head, that was on a Saturday. Monday I was back at the doctor’s... Read More >>
Is this Offer from State Workmans Comp Fair? I was working for the city government in Virginia. While making an emergency water repair I was run over by a drunk driver. I lost 18% of the use of my left arm due to the accident. Workmans compensation wants to give me $18,000 for the 18% loss of use of my arm. This seems... Read More >>
Lawsuit Against the US Postal System for Violation of the Americans with Disabilities Act… I am a disabled person. My local post offices (and several others I have checked) just have the parking lot painted with the handicap sign. An ADA handicapped parking space must be identified with the international symbol of accessibility. This sign must be placed high enough that it will not be obstructed when a vehicle... Read More >>