During the last 13 years, there has been a national watering down of workers' compensation rights. Thirty states have altered workers' compensation legislation to make it more favorable to employers. In addition, a Department of Labor report points to a dangerous race to the bottom that places injured workers in tremendous financial jeopardy.
Tennessee and Mississippi have yet to close loopholes that place certain workers at risk. Both states allow companies with fewer than five employees to dodge purchasing insurance. And both states also allow some companies to self-insure themselves against injury claims. The result places a segment of the workforce at the mercy of their employers if they are hurt on the job.
At first blush it seems absurd to allow a company to insure itself. The very idea is akin to allowing a fox to guard a hen house. Certainly, there are times when self-insurance seems a bit more logical. Take, for instance, a company that creates code for computer games. The owner probably employs only a dozen or so people. These people spend the majority of their time sitting at computers writing code and sipping coffee. There's no heavy lifting or tools to swing. The probability of someone getting injured is minimal.
However, the majority of companies employ individuals who spend at least some of their time engaged in potentially risky work. From cab companies to window-cleaning outfits, retailers to construction corporations may experience worker injuries on a relatively frequent basis. The medical costs associated with a single major accident could easily bankrupt a self-insured entity, leaving the injured worker in dire straits. Therefore, with very few exceptions, self-insurance is a truly risky business.
While neither state mentioned above allows construction companies to hire people without first obtaining accident insurance, other companies sometimes slip through the insurance-related cracks. These uninsured companies essentially leave workers without a safety net in the event of an accident. Without the guidance of an experienced attorney, workers injured while employed by an uninsured company may face dire financial consequences in the wake of their injuries.
Keep in mind that even people you believe are good hearted and will do the right thing by you are generally in business to make money for themselves. Your injury claim and costs may be perceived as cutting into their livelihood. In order to protect your own financial and medical interests in the wake of a work-related injury, consider the following:
- Speak with an experienced workers' compensation attorney about your situation.
- File a written injury report with employer ASAP.
- File an injury claim with your state labor board.
- Provide your employer with copies of all medical bills and expenses.
Legal fees for workers' compensation claims are generally paid for by the insurer or, in cases like these, the employer. But should you receive the runaround from your employer, your attorney may be able to aid in helping you obtain reimbursement for legal fees.