I Don’t Know If My Employer Has Workers Comp Insurance
If you’re not sure whether your employer has workers comp insurance, chances are they do. While not every state requires employers to offer workers compensation insurance, most do, and have since at least 1949. In Pennsylvania, employers are legally required to have workers compensation insurance, by the Pennsylvania Worker’s Compensation Act.
According to the Pennsylvania Department of Labor & Industry, “nonprofit corporations, unincorporated businesses and even employers with only one employee must comply with the Act’s requirements.”
In addition to the PA Worker’s Compensation Act, workers comp cases in Pennsylvania are governed by the Pennsylvania Occupational Disease Act. We’ll discuss occupational diseases in-depth in another article. For the time being, you should know that the Occupational Disease Act extends the benefits offered through the Worker’s Compensation Act to employees whose diseases were directly caused or aggravated by their employment.
Whether you work full-time, part-time, or seasonally, there’s a very good chance that your employer has workers comp insurance and that, in the event of a work injury or disease, you are entitled to benefits.
Workers Covered By Other Compensation Programs
Certain workers, who are not listed in Pennsylvania’s Worker’s Compensation Act, are offered compensation for work-place injury through other programs. If you are a
- federal civilian employee
- railroad worker
- shipyard or harbor worker
- volunteer worker
- “casual employee,” generally students working at universities for less 1,000 hours per year, although the term is sometimes used as a synonym for “independent contractor
specific programs have been put in place within your industry to reimburse you for medical expenses and lost wages resulting from a work-related accident.
How Do Employers Get Workers Comp Insurance?
Employers may purchase insurance coverage for their workers through any number of insurance companies, from big names like Liberty Mutual, Nationwide, and State Farm to boutique insurers like Employers, who offer only workers comp insurance.
Big, “financially-healthy” businesses that have been in operation for three or more years are allowed to self-insure their workers. In addition, small businesses with limited experience are able to apply for workers compensation insurance through Pennsylvania’s state-operated State Workers’ Insurance Fund.
Why Was Workers’ Comp Made Law In Pennsylvania?
Pennsylvania’s workers compensation system was designed to tackle two problems. Before employers were legally required to offer workers comp insurance, injured workers had no option but to sue their employers for compensation. This state of affairs burdened the courts and cost taxpayers. Plus, many injured workers didn’t receive the benefits they deserved, because their employers could afford better, more aggressive legal representation. It was a broken system.
In 1902, Maryland passed America’s first workers’ comp law. It was designed on the “compensation bargain” model and had massive effects on the way that employees and employers interact after a work-related injury.
It’s called a “bargain” because it involves a trade-off. Employers are now required to insure their employees, so workers no longer have to fear paying for their medical expenses and lost wages out of pocket. But in exchange for this security, injured workers are no longer allowed to sue their employers for negligence. That’s why workers comp insurance claims are often referred to as “no fault claims,” because no party is found guilty of anything for an injured worker to receive payments.
This takes tremendous pressure off the US court system, and tax-payer dollars, but also takes the possibility of pain-and-suffering and punitive damages (payments that go over-and-above remuneration for the direct consequences of negligent conduct, intended to reform the defendant and deter others from engaging in negligent behavior) off the table for employees.
Contact A Workers Compensation Attorney
Next week, we’ll find out what you should do if you learn that your employer does not offer workers compensation insurance. In the meantime, we suggest that injured workers in Philadelphia and the surrounding areas reach out to an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss their legal options.