If you are a seriously injured in a work accident, things can be confusing enough even if your employer has workers compensation insurance. However, when you suffer a serious work injury in California and your employer does not have workers compensation insurance, then you may be uncertain as to what you should do. In this article, we discuss your options if your employer is illegally uninsured in California.
In a nutshell, you have few options if your employer is illegally uninsured in California. You can try and obtain workers compensation benefits through the California Workers Compensation Appeals Board (WCAB). You must bring a claim against the California Uninsured Employers Fund. This is a system which is supposed to allow injured workers whose employers do not have workers compensation insurance to collect workers compensation benefits though the Uninsured Employers Fund (hereinafter “UEF”) – a State run agency.
However, you will find this is a difficult process, at best. At worst, it is a sham. Seriously. It is very difficult, if not impossible, to find a California workers compensation lawyer that is willing to handle an Uninsured Employers Fund case. Most California workers compensation attorneys to not handle Uninsured Employers Fund (UEF) cases because the UEF has no accountability.
Unlike a private workers compensation insurance company, the UEF can (and will) arbitrarily not provide workers compensation benefits and there is nothing that can be done. The UEF can stop your workers compensation benefits and the WCAB can’t award penalties. Which means that the UEF is not accountable for not providing timely benefits. Thus, very few California Workers Compensation Lawyers take UEF cases.
If your employer is still viable (i.e. in business and not likely to go out of business if you sue them and able to pay a substantial judgement); then the better option is oftentimes to bring a civil lawsuit against your employer. In addition, in some circumstances you may be able to collect against your employer’s liability insurance carrier even if they don’t have workers compensation coverage. Under California law, an injured worker can elect to file a civil lawsuit against their uninsured employer for negligently causing their injury. These are “second-party” cases, known as “Uninsured Employer Cases.”
Caution is urged in what lawyer you hire to handle your illegally uninsured employer case. You need a California Uninsured Employer Attorney. Very few lawyers in California understand the intricacies and procedures used in California uninsured employers cases. These cases are very different from “common law” negligence cases. You need to be careful to hire a California Uninsured Employer Attorney that understands how to bring and prevail in an uninsured employers civil lawsuit.
Most negligence cases in California have a one year or a two year statute of limitations. Meaning you have one or two years to bring a lawsuit in order to protect your rights. However, you have three years from the date of your injury to bring a civil lawsuit against your uninsured employer in California. If you have filed a timely workers compensation claim against your employer, you may even be able to bring the civil lawsuit much later than three years from your date of injury. Even if it is past the three year point, you may still be able to bring a civil lawsuit. While we recommend you file within the three year statute, you may still be able to bring a case much later.
The bottom line is this. If you are a seriously injured worker in California and your employer doesn’t have workers compensation insurance, you are going to have an extremely difficult time obtaining compensation for your work injuries. What lawyer you hire is going to make all the difference in whether you receive fair compensation. Make sure the California uninsured employer attorney you hire has the experience, resources and ability to win your case.
This article is not legal advice. The article is simplistic in order to achieve clarity. Your case, situation or circumstances may differ substantially from those described in this article. Whenever you are making a court claim your credibility is always at issue. If you get caught in a lie you will probably lose your work injury case. It is crucial that you always tell the truth. Always.