Having workers’ compensation insurance while working in your company is essential to protect you from having to sue due to an on-the-job injury. What happens, though, if this insurance is not available?
This question is serious since not every employer pays into workers’ comp. The business where you work is perhaps one of those, only because they insist they need to save on insurance costs.
While this is risky, what should you do if you end up injured? You have many legal options, while your workplace may face numerous legal challenges. Still, you should know what the basic process is if you happened to suffer a workplace injury recently. You have numerous rights that need upholding.
How Workers’ Compensation Insurance Works for Businesses and Employees
Workers’ comp is now in its 112th year of existence after becoming a requirement for federal employees in 1908. Since then, it fell to individual states to provide this insurance, giving protection to millions of workers.
Companies agreeing to take this insurance know that it will offer a “no-fault” system. This means it removes all company responsibility for someone like you getting hurt.
All rights to a trial in court are nullified when workers’ comp is involved in handling an employee injury. If a company decides not to offer workers’ comp, however, an employee like you might have to sue due to massive medical bills.
There might be some ways around this when allowing the system to work while upholding rights you have as an employee.
What Type of Businesses Might Not Carry Workers’ Comp?
Private businesses are sometimes ones not carrying this type of insurance. Federal agencies already have federal workers’ comp in place, protecting workers and the organizations involved.
What would happen if your private workplace decides not to invest in a workers’ compensation insurance program? Working for a private business, this may be the case for you, leaving you and your fellow employees more vulnerable.
On the other hand, maybe they think you do not need workers’ comp based on the type of job you and your associates have. Considering some injuries are not covered, a good argument may exist for your company to skip over this insurance. Some things workers’ comp does not cover include:
Injuries incurred while doing a serious crime.
Injuries occurring when not at the job site.
Injuries that occurred while willingly violating company safety policies.
Injuries that occurred while the employee was intoxicated.
In a low-risk type of job, your company may feel the above scenarios are more likely than being injured with equipment or any other fluke accident. Anything can still happen. Your company ultimately needs to respect the system when or if an injury does occur.
What Can You Do if You Do Not Have Workers’ Comp?
Should your company elect to not pay into workers’ comp, you have to turn to your state first to gain any help. Doing so helps you gain back any lost wages due to lost work time from your injuries or hospital stay.
Most importantly, state workers’ comp helps pay your medical bills that are certain to become expensive. This becomes the biggest burden for people like you. These injuries could potentially be devastating for life if your injuries are serious enough.
Keep in mind many states do require businesses to get workers’ comp, even if your company has one employee. Most states require some form of this, with some loosening requirements. Texas, for instance, is one of the few not requiring any business to pay in.
Oklahoma is another state allowing employers to opt-out if they have an alternative plan. Declared unconstitutional in 2016, their opt-out law is still in limbo.
Other Rights for You and Other Employees
Once you become injured on the job, you have a right to file a claim for your injury or illness. You can do this through the workers’ compensation court or the state industrial court. While you do this, you have a right to see a doctor and seek all medical treatments necessary.
You also have a right to return to your job in your company if cleared by doctors to do so. In a scenario where you can’t return to work, you have a right to request disability compensation.
Sometimes the legal processes behind this mean you are initially turned down. Your right to an appeal is important, and it should involve the use of lawyers to make sure it is done right.
Scenarios, where you sue due to lack of workers’ comp, can sometimes become complicated. Here are the next steps to take if it happens.
Prevention of Employee Harassment
One thing your company can’t do by law is harass you if you file a workers’ comp claim. Any harassment is against the law, proving how many rights you have.
Another thing to remember is you can avoid going through your own private insurance. Sometimes businesses try to persuade employees to use their own insurance for medical bills, despite you having the legal right to do otherwise.
The same goes if your company tries to persuade you to not file a workers’ comp claim. Any harassment like this could cause further legal issues against your company.
Seek quality legal representation if you decide to file an injury claim and allow the legal process to take shape.
Filing a Personal Injury Claim
You have every right to file a personal injury claim against your company if they refuse to have workers’ comp insurance available. If so, it may be to your own advantage since you can seek bigger settlement amounts to cover damages.
In many states, caps are imposed and only cover two-thirds of the worker’s wage loss. Seeking full damages could mean your company having to pay you a sizable settlement to take care of your situation.
Also, keep in mind you could include damages for emotional distress you suffered from due to your injuries. Of course, you have to prove everything through your medical records and from mental health experts.
Punitive damages are another legal option, something workers’ comp does not provide for workers like you. When punitive damages are awarded, it punishes your business for possible bad conduct involved in causing the injury in the first place.
What Are Uninsured Employers’ Funds?
An uninsured employers’ fund is another option you can utilize as an alternative. These are special funds set up in individual states to help employees like you cover your medical bills.
These are sometimes limited in the funds available, so they may not prevent you from having to file a personal injury claim. UEFs also often help pay a portion of your lost wages, though it all depends on what each state offers.
Finding the Right Legal Help
Should your company not have any workers’ comp insurance and you want to file an injury claim, take time to find an experienced legal team for help. Your company likely has to do the same thing to help themselves.
We are here to guide you at The Joel Bieber Law Firm. Our expertise and experience in personal injury claims and dealing with workers’ comp is well-noted in Virginia, West Virginia, and South Carolina.
Contact us now and let us take care of the complexity of insurance companies for you.