Who Is Responsible for Providing Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

Nearly 3 million workplace injuries or illnesses are reported each year in the United States. When an employee is injured on the job, he or she often incurs medical expenses on top of losing wages due to missing work. As a workers’ compensation lawyer in Niagara Falls, NY from a firm like Hurwitz, Whitcher & Molloy, LLP can explain, employers of the injured are liable for these lost wages and expenses. That is unless workers’ compensation insurance is involved. The question is, who is responsible for carrying it, and is the cost really worth it?

Who Is Responsible for Carrying Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

Employers are responsible for carrying workers’ compensation insurance for their employees, although the specific requirements vary greatly between states. In some states, employers must carry the insurance as soon as they hire a single employee; in others, the insurance isn’t required unless there are 10 or more employees. Some states allow large businesses to self-insure while others require every employer to use a state-run insurance program. Some states don’t make employers cover the insurance at all. Whether you are an employer or an employee, knowing your state’s guidelines is important. 

What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?

Workers’ compensation does double duty in a way. If an employee is injured on the job, the insurance policy will cover his or her medical expenses related to the injury. If the injury was very serious or resulted in death, the policy usually also covers lost wages, the cost of ongoing medical care, or funeral costs. Other examples of situations that may be covered include illness related to ongoing exposure to chemicals or allergens in the workplace or an injury related to repetitive movements, such as carpal tunnel syndrome. 

Workers’ compensation doesn’t just protect employees; it also provides a layer of protection for the employer. When an employer has a good workers’ comp policy, an injured employee cannot sue if he or she is taking advantage of the policy. Without workers’ comp insurance, an injured employee can sue the employer for liability for work-related illness or injury. 

What Happens if an Employer Doesn’t Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

Employers who do not carry workers’ compensation insurance are more likely to be sued by injured or ill employees. Being sued is bad for insurance premiums, bad for the business bank account, and bad for the company’s reputation.

In addition to court situations, employers who don’t have the insurance policy required by the state face other repercussions. Many states charge fines ranging from $10,000 to more than $100,000 to employers who aren’t following insurance laws. Some states, such as California, also pursue criminal prosecution that could result in a misdemeanor or worse.  

Risk management is a big part of being an employer. Proper training and signage around your facilities can help to prevent incidents. However, accidents do happen. Ask your insurance provider if you have a strong workers’ compensation package to help mitigate the situation.