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In today’s global economy it has become the norm for workers in many industries to travel outside the employer’s home state during the course of employment. Traveling to another country during the course of employment has even become commonplace as well. What happens if a worker is injured or becomes ill while traveling for work? The complex answer to that question depends on a number of factors.

In the United States, each individual state administers its own workers’ compensation system. Although there are some differences with regard to eligibility and benefits, the basic concept remains the same. A covered worker who is injured or becomes ill while in the scope of employment is entitled to benefits that cover the cost of treating the injury or illness as well as wage replacement benefits to cover the loss of income.

A workers’ compensation policy typically applies in states where your company has a physical presence. When a worker travels to another state, the worker essentially enters the jurisdiction of a different, yet fundamentally similar, workers’ compensation system. Many states including Georgia have reciprocal agreements with other states allowing workers to be covered under their home state’s workers’ compensation law if they are injured in another state.

Traveling to another country, however, can place the worker in a jurisdiction where workers’ compensation laws don’t even exist. Ultimately, a worker’s employer is responsible for covering injuries or illness wherever the injury or illness occurs, as long as the employee was within the scope of employment at the time that the injury or illness occurred. Many workers’ compensation laws extend coverage to workers who are working temporarily in another state or country.

Endorsements for Coverage of Out-of-State Work Accidents

Employers who have to pay out-of-pocket for a worker who becomes ill or suffers an injury overseas can spend thousands of dollars getting the worker back to American soil for treatment. Moreover, unless the employer has purchased the proper endorsements to their workers’ compensation coverage that covers extra-jurisdictional injury and illness, their workers’ compensation carrier may not be willing to cover the costs once the employee gets back to his or her home state. Endorsements can be purchased by an employer to cover things such as endemic disease and repatriation expenses. However, if the employer failed to include these endorsements, the costs associated with treating and bringing a worker home from a foreign country will fall directly on the employer.

Closer to home, coverage can still be a problem because of the specific laws in each state. Ohio, Washington, North Dakota, Wyoming and Puerto Rico, for example, all have monopolistic workers’ compensation statutes that require an employer to purchase coverage directly from the state (or territorial) government if an employer plans to have workers conducting business in the state. Canada, another common destination for American workers, also requires an employer to register with the appropriate province or territory and to pay Canadian insurance premiums for workers who will work six to ten days or more per year in the country.

For a worker who suffers an injury or illness while away from the employer’s home state, navigating the workers’ compensation system can be challenging. If you are based in Georgia and find yourself in this position, consult with an experienced Georgia workers’ compensation attorney as soon as possible to ensure that your rights are protected, and you receive the benefits you are entitled to for your injury or illness.