If you sustain an injury on the job in California, workers’ comp law entitles you to compensation for lost wages, medical care and other damages. As a no-fault system, this entitlement is automatic given two things: 1) that you sustained your injury on the job and 2) that your employer has workers’ compensation coverage.
What if, though, your employer does not carry workers’ compensation insurance? The California Department of Industrial Relations explains California workers’ comp laws and what you can do if your employer violates them.
Your employers’ responsibilities under state law
Per state law, all California employers must carry workers’ compensation insurance so long as they employ at least one person. If you classify as an employee, your employer has a legal obligation to carry workers’ comp. Failure for your employer to meet this obligation could result in criminal misdemeanor charges and up to $10,000 in fines, up to one year in county jail or both. Additionally, the state may levy a fine of up to $100,000 against your employer.
Your options for recovery
Though you may gain some comfort knowing your employer will face penalties for violating the law, criminal charges will not help you pay your bills or make up for lost wages. Fortunately, you do have a few recovery options.
Your first option is to file a civil lawsuit against your employer for all expenses and damages related to your illness or injury. Though you have to prove fault when filing a third-party claim, you can recover significantly more money if you are successful. When you file a civil suit, you can claim pain and suffering, loss of enjoyment of life, and other damages that you cannot claim in a workers’ comp case.
Your second option is to turn to the Uninsured Employers’ Benefit Trust Fund. The state devised this fund specifically to help individuals who sustain injuries while working for illegally uninsured employers. The state then seeks reimbursement from the offending employers through all available legal measures, including filing liens against their property.
If you sustain an injury or illness while working for an uninsured employer, your path to recovery may prove long and difficult. An attorney can help you speed up the process and increase your odds of success.