Having a job or a career is often an important component in life. When a worker is injured on the job, this might prevent them from working for an extended amount of time while they recover from the work injury. Furthermore, the injured worker is left with a pile of medical bills and filing a claim could help alleviate these financial hardships.

The Connecticut Supreme Court recently expressed strong support for injured workers when it upheld a man’s workers’ compensation claim after his job was terminated. The man’s former employer argued that because he had taken a severance package when he was terminated from his job, he was no longer entitled to collect benefits related to a back injury he suffered on the job. Recently, the state’s top court upheld his right to collect the benefits anyway.

For 28 years, the man worked for MacDermid Inc., a chemical company. He was injured on the job in 2004 and filed a workers’ compensation claim the following year. However, his job was terminated in 2009. At that time, the man signed a termination agreement that provided him with 27 weeks of severance pay but required him to agree to not file suit or make claims against the company.

A workers’ compensation commissioner found that the severance package applied only to the man’s salary, and did not prevent him from collecting workers’ compensation benefits. That decision was affirmed by the state’s Workers’ Compensation Review Board, after which MacDermid appealed to the Connecticut Supreme Court. A six-judge panel at the high court unanimously upheld the decision, ruling that the termination agreement could not be used to settle the worker’s compensation claim.

The workers’ compensation system is meant to provide benefits to cover medical expenses, rehabilitation costs and lost wages that are the result of workplace injuries. When all goes smoothly, injured workers file a claim, the employer’s insurer pays the benefits and the worker returns to work when ready. When things don’t go smoothly, as when an employer has insufficient insurance, or when an insurer doesn’t want to pay, it can mean serious problems for the worker.

It’s at times like those that Connecticut workers most need legal help from professionals with a deep understanding of the workers’ compensation system. As the Connecticut Supreme Court recently affirmed, it’s crucial that injured workers get the benefits they need.

Source: Business Insurance, “Severance pay cannot be used to waive workers comp claim: Court,” Sheena Harrison, Sep. 23, 2013