It can be scary to suffer a workplace accident in Mississippi. Not only are you suffering and trying to recover, but you also likely don’t know where to turn for information or advice. Adding to the stress and confusion is the fact that you may have missed or are continuing to miss work, losing money that you need to support yourself and your family. In an attempt to demystify the workers’ comp system, let’s discuss one particularly confusing aspect of the Mississippi workers’ compensation process: the no-fault basis.
What does “no-fault” mean?
The Mississippi Workers’ compensation system was put in place by the state legislature back in 1948 and has always existed on a no-fault basis. So what does this mean? In Mississippi, as in many other states, it does not matter whether the employee is responsible or partially responsible for causing the harm he or she suffered. A workers’ comp claim can be made regardless of whether the worker is to blame for his or her injury.
So is everything covered under Mississippi’s workers’ comp system? The law is clear that any injury, whether it’s minor or extremely severe, is covered so long as it arises out of the course and scope of employment. Illnesses or disease that result from workplace harm are also covered, as is accidental death, all without regard to the employee’s fault.
What’s the reason behind the no-fault system?
The no-fault system was put in place for several reasons. First, it benefits employees, by allowing them to receive back pay and medical coverage regardless of who was responsible for the harm. This assists workers getting back on their feet quickly after an accident. Second, the no-fault basis is helpful in that it streamlines the process dramatically. Rather than wasting weeks or months fighting about why the accident happened and who was to blame, benefits can be dispensed quickly, saving the employer, employee and insurance companies time and money.
There are only two exceptions to the no-fault rule in Mississippi. The first is when an employee’s intoxication is responsible for causing his or her injury. Mississippi law is clear that no compensation will be paid to any employee if the use of either illegal or prescription medications taken against doctor’s orders is found to be the proximate cause of the injury. The law shifts the burden of proof to the employee in the event that drugs or alcohol are found in the employee’s system at the time of the accident. It then is up to the employee to prove that the intoxication was not a factor in the accident.
The second exception is if an employee willfully intended to harm him or herself or another person. Thankfully, the presumption is in favor of the employee in this case, and the employer would need to firmly establish that the injured employee truly intended to cause the harm.