Tag Archives: work comp insurance

Work Safety Tips

Are All MN Businesses Required to Have Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

Prior to its 1983 amendment, the Workers Compensation Act generally favored the injured employee.  An injured party’s common-law rights were retained unless the Act clearly modified those rights.  In 1983, the Act was amended to be applied on an “even-handed basis”, which ensured neither party received preferential treatment. This standard remains in effect today.  Employers should not mistake the more employer-friendly standard as an opportunity to skirt or circumvent the law.

The Workers Compensation Act in Minnesota

In Minnesota, the act requires all employers, except the state and municipalities, to carry workers’ compensation insurance, unless the employer qualifies for self-insurance (this is often referred to as mandatory coverage).

  • Employees are generally defined as persons performing services for another for hire, including minors and noncitizens.
  • An employer is generally defined as an individual or business that hires an individual to perform services.

The Act provides multiple exceptions to the mandatory coverage rule. However, these exceptions are only applicable in certain circumstances.

Exception for Businesses Without Employees

Some business entities have no employees and are not employers. Thus, these entities have no one to insure. Partners in a business or farm operation may be exempt if every employee is a partner or qualified relative.

Sole proprietorships are non-incorporated businesses owned by one person. If the sole proprietorship has no employees, the business does not need to comply with the act. That said, entrepreneurs are warned not to view sole proprietorships as a “free pass” from regulations.

A sole proprietorship is a business entity that fails to provide the owner with any liability protection. Entrepreneurs should avoid sole proprietorships at all costs. In addition, managers or members of limited liability companies and executive officers of closely held corporations may be excluded from the workers’ compensation requirement if certain requirements are met.

Workers’ Compensation Insurance

Workers’ compensation insurance may be purchased through an insurance agent or directly from an insurance company.  Minnesota has several thousand licensed insurance agents who sell workers’ compensation insurance, so you have plenty of options to choose from.  In Minnesota, work comp insurance is sold through open competition, which means insurance companies establish their rates and compete for business.  The workers’ compensation polices provide coverage mandated by state law. Thus, only price, quality of service, and customer service varies and employers could have significant savings by receiving multiple price quotes for the insurance.

Workers’ Compensation insurance provides compensation to employees who suffer a work-related injury or disease.  Compensation includes partial wage replacement and full payment of medical and vocational rehabilitation costs. In case of death, workers’ compensation benefits are paid to the employee’s dependents. Workers’ compensation insurance companies and self-insured employers pay these benefits and collect the premiums. The Minnesota workers’ compensation law was designed to standardize benefits, reduce litigation, and encourage early rehabilitation intervention, healthy employee and employer relationships, and return-to-work programs.

Workers Compensation Act Violations

If an employer fails to comply with the act the failure may result in any of the following:

  • Litigation
  • Civil fines and penalties
  • Criminal charges

An employer suspected of violating the statute will be investigated by the Special Compensation Fund unit.  Even if an employee was not injured, an employer found in violation of the act may be fined by the Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry. An employer in violation of the act will be ordered to provide the necessary insurance coverage and refrain from employing any person, at any time, without issuing the proper insurance.  In addition, the employer may be penalized up to $1,000 per employee for each week the employee was not insured.

In addition, if an employer receives a commissioner’s order, the employer has ten days to comply or contest the order.  If an objection is not received by the commissioner by the deadline, the order will be considered final and the employer cannot appeal.  If, however, the employer contests the order, the dispute will be resolved by a workers’ compensation judge. The judge shall determine whether the fine and order is justified.  If the employer is found in breach of the act, the employer will be required to pay the order’s fines and may be penalized by additional fines if the uninsured people were employed while the case was in dispute.

In addition to costly fees and penalties, an employer found to have willfully and intentionally failed to comply with the act is guilty of a gross misdemeanor. In Minnesota, a gross misdemeanor is punishable with a fine up to $3,000.

Violation Remedies for Employees

If an employer has not purchased insurance coverage or failed to comply with self-insurance requirements and an employee suffers a compensable injury, the employee has multiple remedies. The injured employee may either pursue the employer in tort or request the Minnesota Special Compensation Fund pay the appropriate benefits.  After a request has been made, a judge will determine the employer’s liability and if the compensation fund is appropriate.  If the compensation benefit is awarded, the judge will order the employer to reimburse the Special Compensation Fund and will be penalized in the amount of 65 percent of the total cost of the benefits.

In Minnesota, a workers’ compensation claim is valid even if the employer goes out of business. Courts have routinely held that if an employer ceases to exist, the fault does not lie with the employee and it should not affect the employee or their dependents.

Injured at Work

Why You Should Know If Your Employer is Self-Insured

Minnesota requires employers to carry worker’s compensation insurance, which also means that your employer is the one who pays for the coverage.

Because your employer has to pay for workers’ compensation insurance, which operates much like any other insurance does with premiums, your employer has an unavoidable conflict: taking care of employees vs. keeping its costs low.

Self-Insured Employers

Not all conflicts of interests are equal though. It is important to discuss how this conflict can be even more amplified if your employer is self-insured.

Minnesota gives employers two ways to comply with the state’s workers’ compensation laws. It allows employers to get workers’ compensation insurance through:

  1. private insurance
  2. self-insuring

So what does it mean to be self-insured? If your employer is self-insured, it means that your employer acts as its own insurer. Instead of paying a traditional third party insurer, the company has set up a system in which it pays workers’ compensation claims directly out of the company’s own pocket.

Your employer is directly responsible for paying any wage loss benefits, medical benefits, permanent disability benefits, or rehabilitation benefits you are entitled to as a result of your workplace injury. This can add up to be a significant cost to your employer, especially if a lot of workers’ compensation claims are being made.

What kind of employer is self-insured? Minnesota requires that any employer who is self-insured prove that it has enough funds to pay workers’ compensation claims for self-insuring to be permissible. This means that self-insured employers are often large, corporate businesses. And, these employers have a significant interest in keeping their costs low by minimizing the workman’s comp claims it has to pay. Since they are paying out-of-pocket, the conflict of interest is emphasized. And, this may impact how hard your employer is willing to fight to avoid paying for your claim.

How to Find Out How My Employer Is Insured

It is not always easy to tell if your employer is privately or self-insured. Some self-insured employers pay third party administrators to handle the day-to-day aspects of its workers comp claims. These third party administrators are usually also private insurers, so it may initially appear that your employer is insured through the administrator. Look at your paperwork and see if any reference to the insurer says “administered by” or a similar variation. This is a good indicator that your employer is self-insured.

Next Steps: Make a Plan of Action

As an injured employee, it is important that you take steps to make sure you are getting the help you need to recover. Whether you would describe your relationship with your employer as good or bad, it is important that you understand the conflict of interest they have and how it can impact their decision making. An employer can’t have only your best interest at heart when it has so many other factors it is trying to balance. As workers’ compensation lawyers, we have seen many employees with both good and bad relationships with their employer run into difficulty getting their claims paid. The facts are this: if you were injured at work and are a qualifying employee, not only do you deserve coverage, you may be entitled to it.

If this “red flag” has brought concerns to your attention about your workers’ compensation claim or you believe you are not receiving the workers comp benefits you should be receiving, we encourage you to speak with an attorney as soon as possible. Our attorneys have extensive experience in handling workman’s compensation claims and are available to discuss your case. To speak with an attorney on the workers’ compensation team at Heimerl & Lammers, contact us at 612.294.2200.



Statute of Limitations on a Work Injury in Minnesota 3 Must-Know Facts

What if my Employer Does Not Have Work Comp Insurance?

Employees who are injured on the job can get their medical bills paid and receive wage replacement as well as other benefits by making a work comp claim.

In Minnesota, nearly all employers are legally required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. Workmen’s compensation insurance works a lot like other insurance that you may be more familiar with (e.g. car insurance, homeowners insurance, etc.). Employers must pay a premium in order to receive coverage.

For some employers, it is just too tempting to save money in the short term by not carrying coverage. Money saved…or so your employer may think. Other employers may simply have allowed their coverage to lapse or they are ignorant of the law.

Regardless of why or how an employer ends up without workers’ compensation insurance, the impact on you as the injured employee can be significant. Who will pay your medical bills? What about all of those days you missed from work?

The good news is that Minnesota’s work comp system anticipated this problem and it created the Special Compensation Fund.

The Special Compensation Fund’s Role in Minnesota Workman’s Comp

The Special Compensation Fund investigates employers who may not have workers’ compensation insurance. Failure to carry coverage can result in fines to the employer. If your employer does not have workers’ compensation insurance, you can seek work comp coverage from the Special Compensation Fund. In return, the Special Compensation Fund will attempt to get reimbursed from your employer.

Therefore, all is not lost for an injured employee who finds out his or her employer does not have workers’ compensation.

The Practical Steps

First, use Minnesota Department of Labor & Industry’s workers’ compensation insurance verification tool. When employers refuse to provide worker’s compensation information, this is a great tool to determine whether or not they are carrying coverage. However, the Department of Labor warns not to assume your employer does not have coverage if they are not on the list.

Second, if your employer is operating without workers’ compensation insurance, report them to the Department of Labor & Industry. The Special Compensation Fund will then begin an investigation.

Third, if your employer is confirmed to be uninsured, you can claim workers’ compensation benefits from the Special Compensation Fund. This includes wage loss benefits, such as temporary total disability or temporary partial disability, and other benefits like medical coverage.

Keep in mind that the Special Compensation Fund has limited means and funds. Therefore, like a workman’s compensation insurance company, it has the motive to minimize the wages and medical benefits it pays out. Often, it is beneficial for an employee of an uninsured employer to seek out the help of a workers’ compensation attorney. This helps to ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to after a workplace injury.

As always, our team of Minneapolis workers’ compensation lawyers, including Benjamin Heimerl, Mike Lammers, and Amy Robertson, are available to discuss your case during a free consultation. We are here to help fight for your rights.

Workers Compensation concept

Who Pays for Work Comp Insurance?

Who pays for worker’s compensation insurance? The answer may have a larger impact than you realize. While most of our “red flags” address specific situations, this red flag is present in every work comp case. My goal here is to give you the tools necessary to understand how who pays for work comp insurance creates a conflict of interest and help you make a plan of action to safeguard your interests from this red flag.

Who Has to Pay for Workers’ Compensation Insurance?

In a nutshell, worker’s compensation is an insurance-based system that is run by each individual state. Most worker’s compensation statutes mandate employers carry insurance that covers injured workers. In Minnesota, employers are required to provide workers’ compensation benefits that provide for wage replacement, disability benefits, medical benefits, and rehabilitation benefits.

In Minnesota, both private insurance through a third party provider and self-funded insurance is allowed.

While Minnesota employers are free to choose how to insurer, employers do not have discretion over who pays for the insurance. Your employer is the party responsible for obtaining and maintaining workers compensation insurance for eligible employees. It is not the eligible employee’s responsibility. This is good news for employees, but it also creates a conflict of interest or “red flag” you should be aware of.

The Conflict of Interest

Regardless of whether your employer is self-insured or purchases its insurance from a third party, the number of workplace injuries an employer has will ultimately impact how much it has to pay for insurance.

Every employer is concerned with its “bottom line.” It is no secret that most employers are concerned with profits and balancing the budget, so it is not difficult to understand why employers are so motivated to keep their workers’ compensation costs low.

The method of insurance your employer has chosen to use may impact just how motivated they are to “keep costs low.” The type of insurance plan your employer has also may impact how motivated your employer is to fight your workman’s compensation claim in order to keep its costs at a minimum.

PRIVATE INSURANCE

If your employer has private work comp insurance, it pays a monthly premium and may have deductibles. The insurance relationship between your employer and the workers’ compensation insurer looks a lot like the relationship you have with your personal homeowners or car insurance. The premiums reflect the risk the insurer is taking on.

For example, consider your car insurance. If you are in multiple car accidents, get excessive speeding tickets or a DWI, your monthly car insurance premiums will probably go up. Your insurer raises your rates because it believes your past record is an indicator of the future claims you may have. Minnesota workers compensation insurers use similar reasoning to determine premium rates for employers.

Work comp insurers factor in how many workplace injuries and accidents have happened when determining the premium your employer has to pay. This means that the less claims your employer makes on its work comp insurance the less its premiums will be. On the other hand, it also means that the more claims your employer makes, the more expensive its workers compensation premiums and deductibles will be. And, that is where the conflict resides.

SELF-INSURANCE

If your employer is self-insured, this means that your employer is responsible for paying all of its workman’s comp claims out-of-pocket. Because this can expose employers to huge expenses, employers who chose to self-insurance are usually larger companies that could easily pay a catastrophic claim.

However, just because a large company could pay for a claim does not mean they want to pay for a claim.

In some ways, self-insured employers are an extra-large red flag. Not only does the company have a very personal stake in the claim, but it is also likely that it has vast amounts of resources to fight the injured worker in court. They might even have their own in-house attorney or, will at least, have a close relationship with a law firm that specializes in fighting workman’s compensation claims.

Next Steps: Making a Plan of Action

It is important that you understand that your employer isn’t the only one with a bottom line. This is your physical and financial health. You only get one body, and it has to last you all your life. If you were injured while working, it is essential that you make sure you receive medical care and receive the proper accommodations to ensure you can heal properly and get back to your regular life.

Your employer has insurance for just this situation, so do not let your employer make the choice to forfeit your physical and financial health.

I suggest you make a plan of action. Are there any red flags that you need to take account of? It is never too early to contact an attorney after a workplace injury. This is especially important any of the following “red flags” have taken place:

  • Your employer is giving you the “runaround” and is making the claim process difficult
  • You received a notice that your benefits are being discontinued
  • Your claim has been denied
  • Your employer claims you have reached maximum medical improvement
  • Your employer is trying to discouraging you from reporting your claim
  • Your employer is retaliating against you for filing a workman’s compensation claim

As always, our team of Minneapolis worker’s compensation lawyers are available to help you get and maximize your worker’s compensation benefits. We advocate for you today, so you have a better tomorrow. To speak with an attorney on our team at Heimerl & Lammers, contact us at 612.294.2200.

Work Comp Insurer

How to Determine Your Work Comp Insurer

After you suffer a work injury in Minnesota and have notified your employer, what do you do next?

If you’re like most injured workers, you seek appropriate medical treatment, whether it’s emergency care, diagnostic treatment, or just follow-up care. Those medical bills should then be submitted to your employer’s Workers’ Compensation Insurance Carrier.

But who is that?

Work Comp Insurers

Most often, your employer will provide you with that information, either at the time you inform your employer of your injury, or shortly thereafter.

But what if your employer can’t (or won’t) give you that information? Sometimes it isn’t easy to get the insurance information from your employer, for various reasons: Maybe your supervisor doesn’t know who the work comp insurer is, or maybe the person who knows isn’t available. It’s also possible your employer is withholding the information on purpose. If that is the case, you might be able to make a claim against them for illegal conduct. In the meantime, you still need to get medical treatment, and you can’t afford to wait. So what can you do?

Department of Labor and Industry

The answer lies with the Department of Labor and Industry (DOLI). If you have access to the internet (which, if you’re reading this blog post, you likely do), you can search to identify the workers’ compensation insurers for Minnesota employers at the DOLI search engine site.

All you need is some basic information, such as the date range for your inquiry, and information about the employer’s name and address. However, if you are still unable to find the insurer after using DOLI’s above search site, you can place a request directly at the inquiry page, and will likely receive an e-mail response from a DOLI employee within hours.

If you do not have regular access to the internet, you can always call DOLI directly to ask, by calling (651) 284-5005.

Don’t get left in the dark by your employer. Find out who your workers’ compensation insurer actually is. And be aware that if you run into difficulties, an experienced work comp attorney can help you get the benefits you deserve.