Chances are you may be living in a state that doesn’t require employers to carry worker’s compensation insurance, and you may not know until it’s too late. There is no federal law that regulates or requires worker’s compensation insurance, so the states are left to decide for themselves whether to require it. This means, depending on the state you live in, you may need other options.
States with No Mandatory Worker’s Comp Insurance Coverage
Worker’s compensation coverage can take on a variety of expressions across the states. For example, in Connecticut, employers with four or more workers are required to carry worker’s comp insurance, whereas in California all employers are required to have worker’s comp insurance firmly in place.
In some instances, a state may leave it up to the business owner to decided how to cover the injured employees. The employers have the choice of pursuing private insurance coverage or becoming self-insured. With either of these option, employees must go through a filing process with specific deadlines in order to successfully complete a worker’s comp claim.
In Texas, there is no mandatory requirement that employers carry worker’s compensation insurance. This is also the case in Alaska and a handful of other states that leave the decision to carry the insurance largely up to the employer. How does one go about getting help with medicals bills for an on-the-job injury in Texas and states without mandatory coverage, one might ask. The answer is rather ambiguous.
In some states with no worker’s compensation requirement, workers may still file worker’s comp claims. Granted, this is only if the employer continues to refuse to cover expenses for an employee’s valid injuries after he or she has requested it. Other state provisions only require worker’s comp insurance for businesses with a certain number of employees or offer exemptions that allow companies to avoid the added expense of carrying it.
States with Exemptions or Waivers to Worker’s Comp Insurance Coverage
Even if an employer is required by the state to carry worker’s comp, it may be exempt according to the law. Worker’s comp exemptions create a way for employers to continue to comply with the law even without the insurance.
What this means for the employees is that, even if you’re injured on the job, you may be hard pressed to receive compensation for expenses related to the accident and your recovery. In these instances, the help of an attorney may be the best bet to identify any exemptions or waivers that might apply and determine whether it is in fact valid for your employer.
No Mandatory Worker’s Comp Insurance
When state regulated insurance systems are absent or inadequate, injured employees still have legally viable options for obtaining the compensation they need. The most important thing to remember is that help is available. A qualified employment rights attorney can assist with locating the right resources and information for workers injured without a chance for recovery through traditional forms of state worker’s compensation insurance.
One of the first things an attorney might advise, even when worker’s comp is absent, is for employees to seek immediate medical attention. Regardless of the level, or absence, of insurance coverage through a job, an employee should get on-the-job injuries treated and documented. This documentation can prove to be invaluable as the situation develops.
Some states have special funds in place for injured workers either working for a company not covered by state law (due to below minimum numbers of worker, for example) or for injured employees working for a company that does not carry insurance. These government funds often contain very specific filing requirements, deadlines and provisions. Again, an attorney can help injured workers navigate the process of filing for this kind of compensation.
In the absence of both government funds and coverage from their employer, an employee still has at least one option: filing a lawsuit in civil court. When an employee sues for compensation based on injuries sustained at work, certain advantages do kick in. For instance, most worker’s compensation claims do not allow an employee to claim compensation for pain and suffering – a frequent result of workplace injuries. Civil lawsuits do, however, allow injured workers to recover for these types of claims.
Precautions When Filing a Lawsuit for Workplace Injuries
Injured workers seeking compensation in states without worker’s comp requirements or where the employer has elected not to carry insurance need to know that the alternative, filing a lawsuit, involves some risks.
For example, even though suing your employer for injury compensation can yield recovery for pain and suffering and even from punitive damages, it also triggers defenses that could limit or lessen the amount of compensation for a worker’s compensation claims. An employer could defend against an injury compensation claim by arguing that the worker’s own negligent behavior or actions were the actual or at least a contributory cause for the injury, for instance.
Defense like this shift burdens of proof and can result in less than successful results. If the employer is able to prove that the actual cause of the injury is due to an employee’s own negligence or that injury was not the fault of the company at all, this could mean that the employee never gets the compensation he needs.
Choosing a Worker’s Compensation Attorney
The world of worker’s compensation is extremely complex. The patchwork of state law and regulations governing the worker’s comp insurance system makes it difficult to determine the best approach for obtaining the maximum amount of compensation. It’s equally difficult to identify the particular state rules applicable to your situation and the exact process for filing or initiating a worker’s comp claim.
That’s why choosing an attorney to assist with the matter should be a careful, well-planned endeavor. Your attorney should have a wealth of experience in dealing with state laws defining worker’s compensation provisions and rules for filing and recovery. He or she should also be capable of taking your injury claim to court in the absence of adequate insurance coverage or in the case of an employer’s repeated refusal to cooperate.