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Your Rights When Employer Fails to Obtain Workers Compensation Insurance, Part I

For a worker, a job-related injury often makes them aware of how little they know about their rights. Not until they are hurt do many employees realize that what they’ve assumed about their benefits may not be entirely accurate. It’s often a shock to find that coverage and care for their injuries is hard to achieve, limited in scope, and at times, nonexistent. There are many aspects to the workers’ compensation system with which all employees should familiarize themselves. However, the most essential is this: does your employer carry workers’ compensation insurance? For Illinois workers, the good news is that most employers are required by law to carry some form of workers’ compensation insurance. Very few exemptions exist for employers to not provide their employees with coverage. But the truth remains, not all business owners comply with the law. It’s distressing for an employee who is injured on the job to find out too late that their employer has failed to obtain or maintain their coverage. Fortunately, the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission provides guidance and assistance for workers whose employers are in noncompliance.

According to Illinois state guidelines, employees should immediately report their employers for any failure to carry workers’ compensation insurance to the Insurance Compliance Division. If the worker has already been injured, they will need to supply their personal information and the date of their injury. Additionally, the guidelines state that employers risk the following fines and penalties for noncompliance:

“An employer that negligently fails to provide coverage is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor for each day without coverage, punishable by up to 12 months imprisonment and a $2,500 fine.

An employer that knowingly fails to provide coverage is guilty of a Class 4 felony for each day without coverage, punishable by 1-3 years imprisonment and a $25,000 fine.

An uninsured employer may be also fined up to $500 for every day it lacked insurance, with a minimum $10,000 fine.”

“In addition, if the Commission finds that an employer knowingly failed to provide insurance coverage, it may issue a stop-work order and shut the company down until it obtains insurance.”

While these penalties against the employer are important for deterring such behavior, they have little direct impact on helping an employee who is already “out” coverage for their injury. With this in mind, the law makes a concession:

“An uninsured employer loses the protections of the Workers’ Compensation Act for the period of noncompliance. That means an employee who was injured during the period of noncompliance may choose to sue in civil court, where there are no limits to awards.”

Normally, an Illinois worker with workers’ compensation coverage is almost never allowed, by law, to sue their employer for their injuries. In exchange for providing such coverage, employers are somewhat protected from potentially far-more-expensive lawsuits by injured employees. As a result, when an employer fails to provide the required insurance, their protection from such litigation is removed. An injured worker and their workers compensation lawyer Chicago can, at that point, potentially obtain a much larger financial settlement than might have been acquired through workers’ compensation insurance.

Additionally, the state of Illinois maintains a fund to assist some injured workers without coverage. The background, purpose and conditions of this fund, known as the Injured Workers’ Benefit Fund, will be explored in part two of this article.

About the Author: Brooke Haley is a Marketing Associate at Millon & Peskin, Chicago workers compensation lawyers that practice in the areas of Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury. Millon & Peskin is a General Civil Litigation Practice with the goal of representing the interests of injured workers, throughout all applicable Courts in the State of Illinois. For more information about Illinois workers compensation attorney,please visit www.millonpeskin.com.

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