The Colorado General Assembly has proposed new legislation that would address the issue of worker injuries when their employers have no workers’ compensation insurance. If passed, the proposed law packaged in House Bill 1119 will create the Colorado Uninsured Employer Act.
Colorado’s HB 1119 Overview
This legislation is a show of bipartisanship with support from Democrat Senator Cheri Jahn and Democrat Representative Tracy Kraft-Tharp and Republican Senator Jack Tate and Republican Representative Lang Sias. The Act would create a fund from which eligible injured workers can draw benefits. Employer penalties and fines imposed by the Division of Workers’ Compensation for no insurance coverage will help fund the account. Other financial sources may include grants, donations, and public and private gifts.
The bill also directs the establishment of a governing board to cover a range of duties for the uninsured employer fund. Some of these responsibilities include the setting of criteria for rates, claims adjustments, rules adoption and benefit payments. The Board must establish a plan of operation for fund administration duties and money collection procedures for the fund.
The Plight of the Injured Worker and No Workers’ Compensation Coverage
As a worker, when you are considering employment, you may look at several different factors. While stable work hours, healthcare benefits, paid leave, and retirement plans are frequently considered, whether your potential employer has workers’ compensation coverage rarely comes up.
Because it’s the law, most workers assume their employer has the necessary coverage. They only discover a lapse if they experience a work injury that leads to a Colorado workers’ comp claim. A seriously injured employee who is unable to receive benefits under workers’ comp due to their employer’s negligent insurance oversight is left in a precarious position.
Workers’ comp covers medical treatment for your injury or illness. It also pays a percentage of your wage loss if you are unable to work due to your injury. With no workers’ comp coverage, these and other benefits are no longer available.
Seriously injured workers find themselves struggling to receive desperately needed medical treatment and facing overwhelming unpaid bills due to their lost wages. In the event of a resulting disability, the injured worker is unable to receive the temporary or long-term disability benefits that would otherwise be available to him under the workers’ comp program.
Related: Passage of Amendment 69 Could be Bad News for Colorado Workers’ Compensation
One option in this situation is to sue your employer in civil court for the losses associated with your injury. A big problem with this method of reimbursement is the length of time it typically takes to recover damages in civil court. The process is lengthy, and your medical and financial needs are immediate. The biggest problem is that most employers don’t have the assets to pay the benefits due injured workers. Bankruptcy is declared – or the business stops functioning – and the injured worker is left with an order he or she cannot collect.
The proposed Colorado Uninsured Employer Act is a far more effective solution to the uninsured employer problem. Many other states already have these funds set up for these types of injured workers. Some have temporary disability insurance programs instead.
Uninsured Employers’ Workers’ Compensation Fund Examples
Several states, such as California, New Jersey, and New York, have some form of compensation funding for injured workers whose employers have no coverage. California has two funds, the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund (UEBTF) and the Subsequent Injuries Benefits Trust Fund (SIBTF).
New Jersey also operates two funds, the Uninsured Employer’s Fund and the Second Injury Fund. In New York, their Uninsured Employers Fund (UEF) assigns direct liability to the employer for compensation payments and medical costs.
HB 1119 was introduced on January 20, 2017 and is currently under consideration. Meanwhile, if you have suffered a work injury and subsequently learned that your employer has no workers’ compensation insurance, contact a seasoned Colorado Workers’ Compensation lawyer like Kaplan Morrell to explore your options.
Need help now? We’re here for you. Contact our Denver Workers’ Compensation Attorneys here, and if you’re out in the “burbs” you can reach our Greeley Workers’ Compensation Attorneys here. We’re here to help- and we will fight to get you the benefits you are entitled to!