Employers Without Workers’ Compensation & Employees' Legal Options
In every state except Texas, the vast majority of employers are required to purchase workers’ compensation insurance. (Certain types of employees may not be covered, such as some types of domestic workers and agricultural workers. Businesses with just one employee also may not be required to get coverage.) However, sometimes an employer will not purchase insurance. This can cause concerns for employees as their medical bills accumulate, and they no longer have income to support their families. If your employer fails to purchase the required coverage, you may be able to pursue a personal injury claim against them in court. Or you may be able to get benefits through government sources.
Pursuing a Personal Injury Claim After a Workplace Accident
Personal injury cases have certain advantages and disadvantages compared to workers’ compensation claims. One of the main advantages is that you can recover a broader range of damages. Workers’ compensation generally does not provide full wage replacement, and it does not cover non-economic forms of harm, such as pain and suffering. You can obtain these damages in a personal injury claim, to which a cap on compensation may not apply. In some cases, an injury that resulted from dangerous workplace conditions or intentional misconduct by the employer may open the possibility of punitive damages as well. These are damages that go beyond the amount needed to compensate the employee. Punitive damages are meant to punish the employer, and they can be substantial if the misconduct was serious.
A personal injury case may also involve a third-party claim if the injury was at least partly caused by someone who was not the worker’s employer or coworker.
However, personal injury claims are more challenging than workers’ compensation claims from a legal perspective. You would need to prove the fault of the employer or a coworker in causing or contributing to your injuries. The burden of proof would be on the worker, and they should strongly consider retaining an attorney for this type of claim. An attorney can help make sure that you follow all of the applicable procedural rules and meet the required deadlines.
Personal injury cases often take longer to resolve than claims for workers’ compensation benefits, especially when the worker’s injury is fairly straightforward. You may not get the money for your medical bills for a long time if the claim is contested, which is likely if you are alleging the employer’s fault.
Pursuing Other Types of Benefits
In addition to pursuing a personal injury claim, you may be able to get benefits from the state workers’ compensation fund. This is a resource set aside in many states for people who become injured or ill at a job that does not carry workers’ compensation insurance. Benefits through the state fund should cover the medical expenses of an injured worker, and they also may provide some wage replacement in certain situations.
A temporary disability insurance program also may be an option in some states. Benefits through this type of program may fill the gap until the worker gets compensation through the personal injury case. They may even be sufficient on their own if a worker’s injury is not serious.
A worker who is suffering from a disability that completely prevents them from working may be able to obtain benefits through the federal Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. This involves meeting very technical criteria, so retaining legal representation can be vital.