What Happens If Your Employers' Workers' Comp Policy Lapses Before You Suffer An Injury?
If you work in the construction industry, you certainly know the importance of a valid workers' compensation policy--without this insurance, you could find yourself out of luck when it comes to paying medical bills or maintaining a steady income if you're injured on the job. However, few construction workers have the information (or the desire) to check the status of their employers' workers' compensation policy themselves; this can leave you out in the cold if your employer lets this policy lapse prior to an injury. What are your legal options if you're injured at work and aren't covered by a valid workers' compensation policy? Read on to learn more about this situation and how you should proceed.
Is your employer required to maintain workers' compensation coverage?
Each state sets out laws, rules, and regulations governing the relationship between employers and employees with regard to workers' compensation. Some states require all employers to purchase their own workers' compensation coverage through an approved list of insurers; others assess a tax on earnings that is placed into a general fund and used to administer benefits throughout the state.
Because workers' compensation coverage and benefits are administered at the state level, coverage requirements can vary widely. However, all states require employers to have some protections for injured workers, whether this involves their own workers' compensation policy or payments to a statewide fund. Employers that fail to take out a workers' compensation policy, remit fees to the state, or otherwise leave their employees unprotected can face civil sanctions, fines, or in some cases even jail time.
What are your legal options if you're injured at work without a valid workers' compensation policy in place?
If your employer has allowed a workers' compensation policy to lapse, leaving you without coverage for a work-related injury, you should have the right to file a civil lawsuit to collect any damages from your employer directly. While a legal proceeding can often last longer than a workers' compensation claim, showing that your employer failed to maintain state-mandated coverage can be a tremendous boost to your claim; often, this type of per se violation can be just about enough to assess liability for your injuries even without any evidence that your employer was otherwise negligent.
You'll want to seek legal advice early in this process; bringing a civil lawsuit can be complicated, even if the issues are fairly clear-cut, and a licensed attorney can ensure your filings are in the proper format (and make the proper allegations) for you to obtain relief.