All employers in California are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Employers have the option of selecting an insurance company from the providers in the state or if they are wealthy and post a bond with the state, they can enroll in California’s program to become self-insured. It is a crime for a California employer to be uninsured for workers’ compensation benefits. If an employer is illegally uninsured they are putting themselves and their employees at risk. Thankfully there are resources to help injured workers if they find themselves injured and their employers have no insurance in place.
When an employer has illegally failed to obtain workers’ compensation insurance, injured workers can pursue their workers’ compensation claim against the state of California. That’s because the state has a department called the Uninsured Employers Benefits Trust Fund (UEBTF). The UEBTF maintains a fund of money which is used to provide workers’ compensation benefits when an injured worker has no insurance company against whom she can file her claim. However, filing a workers’ compensation claim against the UEBTF is extremely complicated.
While it is possible to pursue a claim against the UEBTF without an attorney, even California’s Division of Workers’ Compensation (DWC) will advise that it’s a very complicated matter to pursue without guidance. In fact, the DWC offers workshops for injured workers throughout the state. An injured worker can call 1-800-736-7401 to find the workshop nearest to their residence. Regardless of whether or not an employer has workers’ compensation coverage, documentation by the injured worker is still critical in establishing their claim. It’s important to send (and retain a copy of) a claim form, letter, or email to the employer notifying them of the accident in writing.
An injured worker can download the appropriate forms that they need to establish their claim from the DWC (http://www.dir.ca.gov/dwc/iwguides/IWGuide16.pdf). A claim (DWC-1) form will need to be completed and given to the employer in person or by certified mail (return receipt requested). The form needs to be delivered in triplicate and within specified time frames.
It is necessary for an injured worker or her attorney to complete a “Coverage Research Service Request” form and mail it to the Workers’ Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau (WCIRB). This is the state agency which tracks the names, addresses, and dates of workers’ compensation insurance coverage for every employer in the state. The WCIRB will, at no cost to the unrepresented injured worker, research their system for potential workers’ compensation insurance coverage. The WCIRB will then provide a letter advising whether or not the employer has workers’ compensation insurance coverage. It is important throughout this process to retain any and all documentation generated which may help prove the claim.
How to Protect Yourself When You’re Injured At Work
An injured worker should make a list of anyone who may have witnessed the work injury or who would be able to provide testimony which could help corroborate the injury. It may help to have paystubs, text messages, or tax forms from the employer to provide to the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB). If it is confirmed that an employer does not have insurance coverage, an application for adjudication of claim will need to be filed with the WCAB. There are multiple forms involved with this and they need to be filled out carefully and accurately. Anything that needs to be mailed should be sent certified mail with a return receipt requested.
Once all of the documents have been filled out and all evidence has been gathered, a conference can be set at the local office of the WCAB. A workers’ compensation judge will review all of the evidence provided and will then issue an ‘award’ or ruling in regards to the case. An injured worker can also file a complaint against their employer with the Division of Labor Standards Enforcement for not maintaining workers’ compensation coverage for employees.
When you’re injured, you shouldn’t be worried about filing deadlines and proper service of documents. You should be focused on getting better. If you were injured on the job and your employer doesn’t have workers’ compensation coverage or simply won’t give you the information you need to file a claim, your first call should be to a Santa Rosa workers’ compensation attorney. Injured workers in Northern California can contact Kneisler & Schondel to learn more about how uninsured employers can be held liable for workers’ compensation injuries. Call us at (707) 542-5132 or submit a question online to learn how we can help.