Can You Sue Your Employer If He Does Not Provide Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
In New Jersey, employees are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to pay their medical bills and lost wages when they suffer a workplace injury. They are entitled to these benefits regardless of who was at fault in causing the accident. In exchange for this coverage, workers are prohibited from suing their employers. But what happens when an employer fails to provide workers’ compensation benefits?
What Are the Penalties for Not Providing Workers’ Compensation Benefits?
Employers in New Jersey face severe penalties for failing to have a required workers’ compensation insurance policy or an approved self-insurance plan. Penalties include the following:
- Up to $5,000 for the first 20 days of violating the law
- Up to $5,000 for each ten-day period after this first 20-day period
Your employer is required to display proof of coverage in a prominent location. If no verification is displayed, this could be a sign that your employer does not have insurance. You can verify your employer’s coverage through the New Jersey Compensation Rating & Inspection Bureau website or your employer’s insurance carrier.
Can You Sue Your Employer for Your Injuries When There Is No Workers’ Compensation Insurance?
You may be able to sue your employer for your injuries if your employer failed to provide workers’ compensation coverage. You may have to prove your employer’s negligence in causing your injuries to obtain some types of compensation. However, you may be entitled to the following types of compensation:
- Past and future medical expenses
- Past and future lost wages
- Pain and suffering—not allowed in workers’ compensation cases
- Wrongful death compensation, such as funeral and burial expenses, medical expenses for the worker’s last illness, and loss of support, companionship, and advice of the deceased worker
- Punitive damages to punish the employer if its actions were especially outrageous or willful
Compensation Under the Uninsured Employers Fund
You may also be entitled to file a claim for benefits under the Uninsured Employers Fund. This fund was established to pay benefits to workers whose employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance or refuses to provide owed benefits. This fund pays medical expenses and temporary disability. Unfortunately, the Uninsured Employers Fund does not pay permanent disability.
In order to be eligible for these benefits, a formal complaint must be filed with the Division of Workers’ Compensation and your employer must have been found to not have workers’ compensation insurance. Once this finding is made, you or your attorney could file a motion to join the Uninsured Employers Fund. A judge would then decide how much you are entitled to receive for medical expenses and temporary disability payments.
After the judge makes his decision, it can still take a long time for you to receive your payments. You most likely will not begin to receive your benefits for an additional 90 to 120 days. This delay is caused in part due to the right of your employer to pay the full award amount within a 45-day period and procedures that must be followed before a payment can be issued.
While there is not much you can do to speed up the payment process, you can file the motion quickly and provide your attorney with documentation of your medical expenses as soon as possible. The documentation of your medical bills will need to be forwarded to the Office of Special Compensation Funds’ attorney before any payment to you can be approved. You must provide this attorney will original billing statements at your trial or when the award is made.
If you suspect that your employer does not have workers’ compensation benefits, you need to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney right away. To find out more about your right to compensation, call our office today to schedule your free consultation.