What You Should Know If Your Worker Is Hurt On The Job
Employee injuries can create serious issues for any business. Hopefully, the company is protected by workers’ compensation insurance coverage. Most states mandate that entrepreneurs maintain workers’ compensation coverage because it’s a common sense resolution to a problem that could escalate into a major disruption to production.
Standard personal injury lawsuits are still the norm in the few states that do not require corporations to carry workers compensation insurance, so having the coverage is an option, but is also still part of a solid business plan. It is interesting to note that failure to provide workers compensation coverage for employees will not result in a fine on the business in states that require coverage.
Workers compensation insurance protects both the employer and the employee. As explained by the Stroble Law Firm, “Injuries and illnesses covered by workers’ compensation benefits can be caused by a specific incident or by constant and repetitive stresses of the job. Pre-existing conditions that are not work related but that are aggravated on the job also are covered.”
The consideration for the employer is that the workers compensation insurance company is liable for the injured employee’s income benefits and medical bills associated with the work-related injury. An employee can not sue their employer for a personal injury negligence claim, which also precludes punitive damages.
Cases involving employers who do not legally adhere to safety regulations are a separate legal matter. The coverage is not all-exclusive for potential legal action. Injured workers are paid a percentage of their wages while on leave for injuries that last beyond seven days. After the seven-day waiting period, the employee is paid for time lost retroactive to the date of the injury.
Bad Faith Insurance Carriers
Bad faith negotiation tactics are common in workers compensation claims. The insurance company is often as problematic as the employer, who may be unwilling to file a claim because of premium increase concerns. The insurer can also refuse the claim and force the employee and employer to take the case to court. This can put the employer in an adversarial position with its own insurance company.
Even more troublesome are states that only allow one workers compensation insurance carrier in the state. This leaves all businesses at the mercy of that carrier’s benefit payout reduction policy. It also often results in minimal lump sum payouts to employees instead of providing benefits for all parties as the program is designed. Always investigate the workers compensation insurance companies available before making a decision.
Penalties for Non-compliance
There is a potential for a significant fine for non-compliant businesses in states that require workers compensation insurance coverage. The potential for a serious personal injury or wrongful death claim exists when the proper insurance is not part of the operational budget. Although the coverage is not inexpensive, it is still a solid business decision to purchase workers’ compensation coverage in any state of business operation.
There may be insurance carriers providing coverage in multiple states, so businesses that work across state lines may want a single company that services all areas. But remember, failure to carry workers compensation coverage can effectively end a solid business venture if it becomes entangled in a personal injury case.
It is important for the business owner to understand that injury cases occurring outside of the workers compensation protection are determined by a proof standard of preponderance of the evidence, meaning that the case is determined in a 51-49 percent “weighing” of the material case facts. One simple fact can carry enough weight as the controlling fact in the final ruling of the court, so the amount of evidence is often ineffective. The best policy is always purchasing an adequate workers’ compensation insurance plan, or at least a business insurance plan that protects against exorbitant personal injury negligence lawsuits.
Writer LaGeris Underwood Bell hopes this article enlightens small and medium sized business owners about their risks and liabilities when a worker is hurt. She recommends they consult a legal group like the Stroble Law Firm for further insight into this serious issue.
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Photo credit #2: http://www.flickr.com/photos/leinadsimpson/72782436/
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