Q: What if I’m injured at work and my employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance?
New York State periodically audits companies, but it usually doesn’t come up until someone who works for the company is hurt and files a claim. At that time, there are two areas of legality that the employer could face.
One is the compensation case the injured employee files in which they could potentially be liable for all of the damages and penalties. This is a common occurrence, particularly in construction, where often a subcontractor doesn’t have the proper insurance.
There is a state-run organization called the Uninsured Employers Fund which will make payments to the injured worker during the delay in determining whether the employer has coverage or doesn’t have coverage.
The other area of legality is the Board may seek penalties against employer. If the employer is found not to have coverage, they will be subject to strict penalties of approximately $1,000 for each period of 10 days they did not have coverage. If any company has more than one employee, it’s certainly in their best interest, and their obligation under the law, to maintain workers’ compensation insurance coverage.
Q: What if a homeowner is unaware they need workers’ compensation insurance for full-time domestic employees?
If the domestic employee works over 40 hours per week, under the law, they are considered employees. If they are injured, they can bring a workers’ comp case and if the employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation insurance coverage, they will have to hire a lawyer to defend themselves in the case.
In terms of who will be responsible for the injury, a homeowner’s insurance policy will very rarely cover this situation. In fact, there is often special language included to avoid coverage in the case of injured employees.
If the court finds that the injury victim worked at least 40-hours per week, and that the homeowner didn’t have proper workers’ compensation insurance coverage, it’s similar to the example of businesses, where they take care of the payments for the claim.
The injured worker has a right to seek a judgment against the homeowner, which can be pretty damaging. This includes not only penalties, but also paying out a claim for lost time, medical bills, and injuries.
Q: What if I’m injured because my employer was negligent or the workplace is hazardous?
In the typical situation, there would not be any consideration as to fault to be assigned to the employer.
There are situations in which an injured employee can sue a third-party in cases where a person or entity other than the employer was responsible for the employee’s injury. For example, when a negligent motorist collides with an employee’s delivery truck.
At that point, the workers’ compensation insurance company takes an interest in the third-party lawsuit because they will be entitled to reimbursement for what they paid out of the workers’ compensation case once the third-party action is resolved.