Employer that did not have workers’ compensation insurance hit with $235,000 jury verdict

Warning for employers who fail to purchase required workers’ compensation insurance and what employees need to know about their legal rights.

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The Arab American News is reporting on a Dearborn waitress who was hurt on-the-job and sued her employer. She suffered a broken elbow when she slipped and fell on wet floor. Her employer did not have workers’ compensation insurance. A Wayne County jury awarded $20,000 for pain and suffering, $15,000 for mental anguish, and $200,000 in future damages.

We found this case fascinating because it shows what can happen if an employer fails to live up to its obligations under Michigan law. It also answers a question that we get from new clients on a daily basis. What happens if my employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance?

Michigan law requires that private employers who regularly have 3 or more employees at a time, or regularly employ at least 1 person for 35 or more hours per week for 13 weeks or longer during the preceding 52 weeks, purchase workers’ compensation insurance. Failure to obtain this mandatory insurance coverage is a misdemeanor that can lead to criminal charges.

Workers’ compensation is designed to protect employees hurt on-the-job. It pays for medical treatment, lost wages, and vocational rehabilitation if needed. These benefits are guaranteed regardless of fault. In exchange for these automatic benefits, employers are shielded from civil lawsuits seeking additional damages for pain and suffering.

Employers lose any protection against civil lawsuits when they fail to purchase required workers’ compensation insurance. In addition, they must also pay for medical, wage loss, and other benefits out-of-pocket. Officers and directors of any company found to be uninsured for workers’ compensation could be personally liable for payment.

It also possible to sue a general contractor through a “shoot-through” theory of employment when a sub-contractor is uninsured. The general contractor becomes the “statutory employer” and is responsible for payment of workers’ compensation benefits. We represented a client who fell off a roof causing paralysis of his lower extremities. His employer was uninsured, but the general contractor paid more than $2 million to settle the case.

Employees who are hurt at work and find themselves without insurance coverage should contact a lawyer immediately. Watch out for employers who promise to pay medical bills and lost wages under the table. These promises are rarely kept and should not be relied upon.

Additionally, a person cannot sign away his or her workers’ compensation benefits. These “contracts” are unenforceable and the only way to end liability is through a redemption hearing with a magistrate.

We also see employers who want injured employees to lie about how the accident occurred. This can forever damage their claim and will make it impossible to collect workers’ compensation in the future. Medical records from the initial doctor visit will always be reviewed to see if a person gave the correct history.

Michigan Workers Comp Lawyers never charges a fee to evaluate a potential case. Our law firm has represented injured and disabled workers exclusively for more than 35 years. Call (844) 201-9497 for a free consultation today.

Related information:

Alex Berman and Jeffrey Kaufman obtain $2 million settlement in workers’ compensation case

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