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Student injuries can fall through cracks of workers' compensation

Connecticut law requires businesses with one or more employees to carry workers' compensation insurance, but there are exceptions and exemptions. There are many types of employees and many types of employers who can fall through the cracks in the system, making it difficult for injured workers to get the benefits they need when they need them most. A dispute going on currently in a neighboring state helps illustrate the difficulties.

A chemical engineering graduate student at Cornell University was badly injured while working in a university laboratory. According to reports, a glass bottle shattered, severing tendons and an artery in the man's right arm. He has already undergone two surgeries to correct damage from the accident, but the injuries will reportedly lead to permanent problems with his hand, perhaps significantly reducing his earning potential for the rest of his career.

Were the student a typical employee at a private company, he would most likely be eligible to receive workers' compensation benefits to help him pay for medical expenses and lost wages. However, administrators at Cornell say that he is not eligible for workers' compensation because he was working as a graduate student. A group of graduate students has joined together to continue to push for coverage for the man's injury.

Similar legal issues arose in Connecticut several years ago after a Yale student was killed in an accident with a lathe on campus. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration found that the lathe lacked safety features that were required under the law, but that it had no authority to sanction the university over the accident because of the student's status.

When the workers' compensation system works as it should, injured workers get the benefits they need and they return to work, ready to help their employers. But there are many things that can interfere with a workers' compensation claim. An attorney with experience in workers' compensation cases can help the injured to push past these obstacles and fight for what they deserve.

Source: Science Careers, "Can a Graduate Student Get Workers' Compensation?" Beryl Lieff Benderly, March 12, 2014

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