Eligibility requirements for workers’ compensation for agriculture workers
According to a report published by the Montana Department of Labor and Industry, farms were the deadliest workplace in Montana in 2019. Fatal injuries increased by nearly 36 percent in the state over 2018. The report also contained some other startling farm injury statistics, including that of the deaths occurring that year, 42 percent of them occurred on farms.
In Montana, there are nearly 28,000 ranches and farms. During the late 19th century, the promise of agriculture first drew settlers to make their home in Big Sky Country. And today, agriculture still remains one of the most important industries in Montana. In fact, 1 out of every 6 workers in Montana works in an agriculture-related field.
Some of the largest cities in the state, including Billings, began as a railroad hub designed as a market for farmers. Today, those humble beginnings have developed into a thriving agricultural industry.
Although farming and ranching have deep and proud roots in Montana, it’s important to recognize that people who work in agriculture face greater hazards and hardships, and keeping the workplace safe must be a top priority.
Common causes of workplace accidents and common injuries
Agricultural workers in Montana face a number of risks, including:
- Wrist and shoulder injuries
- Back and neck injuries
- Machinery accidents, including tractors
- Falls from heights, including ladders
- Stings and bites from insects and wild animals
- Exposure to toxic chemicals and pesticides
- Occupational asthma and COPD
In addition to accidents that can occur on a farm, agricultural workers may also be at risk of injury when working with machinery that hasn’t been properly maintained.
Injuries may also occur as a result of repetitive motions and can lead to carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle strain, overexertion and more.
When riding in overcrowded vehicles, farmhands may be at risk of becoming involved in serious motor vehicle accidents.
Agricultural workers are often exposed to a variety of chemicals and pesticides in the scope of their employment, which can result in a risk of developing a variety of illnesses, which not only include occupational asthma and COPD, but also cancer.
Many occupational diseases don’t appear right away. In fact, it can often take years for symptoms of work-related illnesses to appear and for workers to be properly diagnosed.
What to do if you suffer an agriculture-related injuries or illness
In Montana, agricultural workers are entitled to receive benefits through the state’s workers’ compensation program if they are injured or become ill due to their work-related activities.
Unfortunately, many workers delay or completely avoid filing a claim.
The reasons for this are many, including a fear of being fired. Workers should know it’s illegal to be fired or punished in any way for filing a claim for workers’ compensation. Workers who have been subjected to such actions may be able to receive not only lost wages but also reinstatement of their job as well as other forms of compensation.
Workers’ compensation for agricultural workers
Under Mont. Code Ann. § 39-71-118, Montana workers’ compensation may provide eligible farmhands with the following benefits:
- Compensation for lost wages
- Medical treatment
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Permanent disability payment
- Death benefits
Employees who have been injured or who have experienced permanent disability may be entitled to receive financial relief or medical care. In order to receive these benefits, however, the worker must be able to properly complete the claims process.
Timing is of the essence when submitting a workers’ compensation claim. In Montana, workers must report any accident or incident to their employer within 30 days of the event.
Furthermore, employers are required under Montana law to submit a report known as the First Report of Injury. This form must be submitted within 6 days of receiving a notification from an injured employee. If this form is not submitted on time, resulting in a delay for the employee’s workers’ compensation claim, the employee may be able to take legal action.
Once the workers’ compensation insurance provider has received the report from the employer, there is a 30-day deadline for the insurer to either accept or deny the workers’ compensation claim from the employee.
If a claim is accepted by the insurer, the worker will be able to receive compensation. This compensation will begin starting on the 5th day of the employee’s date of wage loss. If the employee is not able to return to work for 21 days or longer, the worker may be eligible to receive compensation that is retroactive back to the first day of complete wage loss.
What to do when your workers’ compensation claim is denied
Not all workers’ compensation claims are approved by the insurer. When a claim is denied, the injured employee should not hesitate to file an appeal. To do that, you should contact an attorney experienced in handling workers’ compensation claims in Montana.
At Murphy Law Firm in Great Falls, Montana, we can help injured workers understand their rights under state law as well as ensure their rights are fully protected.